I I II IM I I ANNUALLY
\r nr 1929
Last Year's Issue of The Saturday Evening Quill
Short stories by Edythe Mae Gordon, Eugene Gordon, Gertrude Schalk, and
Dorothy West, printed in the first number of the Saturday Evening Quill, June
1928, were listed under favorable headings in Edward J. O'Brien's "Best Short
Stories of 1928" and in the "O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1928."
Dorothy West's story, "An Unimportant Man," was reprinted in Columbia
University's annual of student literature "Copy, 1929," published by Appleton.
* * *
Three poems, as follows, were reprinted in Braithwaite's Anthology of Maga-
zine Verse for 1928 : Marion Grace Conover's "Quest," Waring Cuney's "Murder
Blues," and Gertrude Parthenia McBrown's "Purple Dawn."
* * *
Requests for copies of The Saturday Evening Quill, many of which were
accompanied by money, came from all sections of the country. We still regret
that the limited edition of 250 copies, and the fact that the magazine was not for
sale, made it impossible for us to grant these requests.
Excerpts from Comments on the First Number of
The Saturday Evening Quill
Many more pretentious anthologies of recent months have lacked stories,
poems, and articles equal in merit to the forty or more gathered here.— Boston
* * * *
It has been well edited. The writers, with their fine candor, have not spared
themselves. Scissors and blue pencil have been ruthlessly at work. The net re-
sult is seventy-two pages of very excellent material.— Alice Dunbar Nelson.
* * * *
... It is good to see such movements as the Saturday Evening Quill Club.
Of such things good literature will come. . . . Harlem writers should follow their
example.— N. Y. Amsterdam News.
* * * *
The June annual of the Saturday Evening Quill Club of Boston is a hand-
some concoction of prose and verse by unprofessional writers, who, incidentally,
happen to be Negroes. There is an admirable absence of jazz and Harlem pos-
turings in this publication of the Boston Afro-Americans.— Commonweal.
* * * *
Had the Saturday Evening Quill Club done nothing but publish Dorothy
West's story of "An Unimportant Man," its work would have been worth while.—
* * * *
The magazine is artistic, meaty, and altogether creditable. Indeed, it is one
of the best of its kind published by Negroes.— The Bostonian.
* * * *
Of the booklets issued by young Negro writers in New York, Philadelphia,
and elsewhere, this collection from Boston is the most interesting and best. ... It
is well printed and readable and maintains a high mark of literary excellence —
W. E. B. Du Bois.
* * * *
Boston may be literarily defunct, as many outside and unknowing critics de-
clare, but it boasts of one organization which is endeavoring in its quiet way to
produce some literature that is really worth while.— Boston Evening Transcript.
The community is uplifted by the Saturday Evening Quill Club's work, a
limited edition of a seventy-two page magazine for which it pays in its entirety.
It is the kind of stuff which makes the race problem solve itself.— Renzie Lemus.
This Number of
The Saturday Evening Quill f
to the memory of
A. Aloysius Greene
the inevitability of whose
He Died at Twenty-three
-> > > t
\ i ",,'
» ' • a » » » , ■ J
». «•• .»• ',' '
^4 Statement to the Reader
The Saturday Evening Quill appears for the second time with this num-
ber, its first appearance having been made in June, 1928. Like the first .
number, this one contains the best of a year's writings by members of the
Saturday Evening Quill Club, a "best" which the writers themselves un-
hesitatingly admit to be lacking many essentials of great literature.
Its purpose still being chiefly to present original work of Saturday Eve-
ning Quill Club members to themselves, this publication is still not for sale.
And notwithstanding the exclamations of incredulity that were heard last
year, we iterate that members are not particularly desirous of receiving
praise for what is found herein. However, they will not close their ears
either to praise or to adverse criticism. The excerpts printed on the inside
of the front cover may seem to challenge our sincerity, but they do not,
really. They were put there principally to show that a number of re-
sponsible-minded readers concurred in the judgment of the editor. It
chances that all the comments were favorable.
Members of the Saturday Evening Quill Club have again paid for their
little folly out of their own pockets and purses, and are indebted only to
Finally (although this fact is no more important now than it was last
year), the ages of contributors run all the way from 60-odd to 21. You
whose curiosity leads you to inquire further, may amuse yourselves by fitting
authors to ages between the years from 21 to 60-odd.— The Editor.
> • . « •
The Saturday Evening Quill
BEING THE ANNUAL OF
The Saturday Evening Quill Club of Boston
tg Table of
Cover Design, Monogram, and Three Drawings —
by Roscoe Wright.
Last Year's Issue op The Saturday Evening Quill
Inside Front Cover
A Statement to the Reader 2
Fireflies: Verse by Gertrude P. McBrown; Drawing
by Lois M. Jones 4
Prologue to a Life — Story Dorothy West 5
A Sonnet Earl Lawson Sydnor 10
Three Poems Edyihe Mae Gordon 11
Maria Peters — Sketch Florida Ruffin Ridley 12
Regalia — Poem Helene Johnson 14
Negro Fictionists in America — Article
Eugene Gordon 16
Worship — Poem Helene Johnson 21
In Winter — Poem Grace Vera Postles 2 1
Three Poems ry Alvira Hazzard 22
Rustic Fantasy — Poem Helene Johnson 23
Destruction — Poem Alice E. Furlong 23
"Rah way Club" — Poem Waring Cuney 23
The Girl From Back Home Ralf M. Coleman 25
Two Poems by Alice E. Furlong 30
Four Poems Waring Cuney 31
Attic Romance — Story Florence Marion Harmon 32
A Study in Color Earl Lawson Sydnor 33
Four Poems A. Aloysius Greene 34
Sarcophagus — Story Eugene Gordon 36
The Cosmic Voice — Poem. . . George Reginald Margetson 40
Little Heads — Play Alvira Hazzard 42
Four Poems Grace Vera Postles 45
The Red Cape — Story Gertrude Schalk 46
Amicitia — Poem Joshua H. Jones, Jr. 49
A Group of Poems Gertrude Parthenia McBrown 50
If Wishes Were Horses. — Story . .Edy •the Mae Gordon 52
Love Me — Poem Edythe Mae Gordon 53
Four Poems Joshua H. Jones, Jr. 54
Washwoman — Story Roscoe Wright 56
Two Poems by Helene Johnson 60
Four Poems by Earl Lawson Sydnor 61
Help Wanted — Play Joseph S. Mitchell 62
Fancies — Poem Earl Lawson Sydnor 71
A Group of Poems Alice E. Furlong 72
Blind Alley— Story Alvira Hazzard 73
I See You — Poem Edythe Mae Gordon 74
Burial of the Young Love — Poem Waring Cuney 75
I Am Not Pround — Poem Helene Johnson 75
Dust to Dust — Poem Joshua H>. Jones, Jr. 76
Remember Not — Poem Helene Johnson 76
Young Love — Poem Edythe Mae Gordon 76
Is the Negro Happy? — Article Roscoe Wright 77
The Saturday Evening Quhl Club. . . .Inside Rear Cover
The Saturday Evening Quill Club is an organization of Boston writers.
Most of these men and women are unprofessional, and all, incidentally, are
Negroes (although anybody who meets the Club's constitutional test may become
Material in this publication remains the personal property of the writers.
Anyone who is interested may communicate with the authors through the editor,—
Eugene Gordon, 32 Copley Street, Cambridge, Mass.
When the tired day
Smiles with the happy nigfyt,
A thousand fireflies
Flicker lanterns bright.
Happy at their play,
Flashing yellow lights,
A thousand fireflies
Shine with stars at nights.
Gertrude Parthenia McBrown.
The Saturday Evening Quill
Prologue to a Life
By DOROTHY WEST
N 1896 Luke Kane had met and mar-
ried Lily Bemis. He had been very
much in love with her. And she had
literally fallen at his feet, stumbling
over his bicycle, lying flat before the
back door, and sprawling before him, her full
skirts billowing about her, and quite all of the
calves of her legs showing.
Luke, in an instant, was out of the kitchen,
and had gathered the hired girl in his arms, and
was cursing his bicycle and soothing her in the
She was small and soft. Though her face was
hidden against his breast, he saw that her arms
were golden, and her dark hair wavy and long.
"Is that your old bicycle?" Lily asked tear-
fully. "You're fixin' to kill somebody."
"Ain't I the biggest fool!" he agreed.
She got herself out of his arms and, sitting
down on the steps, she tried to do things with her
clothes and hair.
"What anybody'd put an old bicycle right in
the doorway for—"
But he was staring into her eyes.
"How long you been working for Miz
"I've seen you before," she told him. "Lots."
"Yeh? Don't you speak to nobody?"
"Gentlemen to whom I been introduced. Oh,
"I'm somebody round these parts," he boasted.
"Ever heard of Manda Kane?"
"Sure. We get our fancy cakes from her
when we're having parties and things."
"I'm her son," he informed her, proudly. "I
been up here delivering. My name's Luke."
"Yeh?" Her eyes were bright with interest.
Mine's Lily Bemis."
"Come from the South?"
"Born there. Yes. But I came up with the
Mitchells when they came. That's been five
years. But then old Miz Mitchell died, and the
two girls got married. I never cared much for
old Mister Mitchell, so I came on to Springfield.
'Cause Mamie Cole went on to Boston and said
I could take her place here. I knew Miz Trainor
was good and all, and didn't have no small
children. So I sorta thought I'd try it. Gee, I'm
young and everything. If I don't like it here, I
can travel on."
He plumped down beside her.
"Listen," he said softly, "I hope you'll like it
Her eyes were two slits and dangerous.
" 'Cause, then," he said huskily, "you'll stay.
And I can be likin' you."
She bent to him suddenly. "You're the fun-
niest coon. Your eyes are blue as blue."
"Yeh. It's funny, black as I am," he said
She put two slim yellow fingers against his
cheek. "You're not black at all. You're just
dark brown. I think you're a beautiful color."
His eyes that were like a deep sea glowed with
gratitude. "I sorta like yours the best."
"Oh, me, I'm not much I" she said carelessly.
"What makes you think I'm pretty?"
"I dunno. You're so little and soft and sweet.
And you ain't so shy."
She was instantly on her feet. "If you think
I'm bold, sitting out here with you, when we
never been introduced—"
"Looka here!" He was on his feet, too.
"Women's the funniest things. I'm liking you
'cause you're not like everyone else, and you're
bristling ! I can have any girl in this little old
town of Springfield I want. But I'm not making
up to any 'cause I ain't found none that suited
me. My mother's orful particular. We got a
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
name in this town. You're the first girl I'm lik-
ing, and you're cutting up!"
But she was inside of the screen door now, and
he saw her hook it. She came very close to it, but
she was careful not to press her nose against it.
"Listen, Mr. Kane, I like you, too. I want to
meet you proper. What would folks say if they
knew we met like this? Me with two buttons
off my shirtwaist and my hair net torn? But
tomorrow's prayer meeting night, and I'm going.
I'm an A. M. E. If that's your church, too, you
come on over. I'll get Miz Hill to get Reverend
Hill to introduce us proper."
He gulped. "Can I bring you home after?"
She considered it. "Maybe I'll let you be keep-
ing my company," she promised.
There followed a whirlwind month of court-
ship. Lily had a hundred moods. They were a
hundred magnets drawing Luke. She did not
love him. Deep within her was an abiding am-
bition to see her race perpetuated. Though she
felt that her talents were of a high order, she
knew she would escape greatness through her lack
of early training. And she had the mother in-
stinct. Thus she would rather bear a clever
child. In her supreme egoism she believed the
male seed would only generate it. She would not
conceive of its becoming blood of her child's
blood, and flesh of her child's flesh. Men were
chiefly important as providers. She would have
married any healthy man with prospects. . . .
Late in the summer Lily and Luke were mar-
ried. Lily didn't want a church wedding. They
were married in Reverend Hill's front parlor.
Miz Hill and Manda Kane stood up with them.
Ma Manda was tearful. She was losing her only
son to a low- voiced yellow woman. She knew
the inescapable bond of soft skin and hair.
Lily, standing quietly by Luke's side, felt a
vast contentment. She respected the man she
was marrying. She faced the future calmly. She
only wanted their passion to be strong enough
to yield a smart and sturdy son.
Later that day they were on a train that was
bound, by the back door route, for Boston. They
sat in the coach with their little belongings piled
all about them. Luke made sheep's eyes at Lily
and felt very proud. He was wondering whether
it was obvious that they had just been married.
He rather wanted the phlegmatic passengers to
admire his golden bride.
He drew her round dark head on to his
shoulder, and caught his hand in the tendrils of
"Guess I'm the happiest man in the world,
and the proudest."
"Ho, you're not proud of me!"
"You are the moon and the stars, Lily, and the
She twisted her head and looked deep into his
"Luke, do you love me as much as that?"
"You watch me," he told her. "I'll bring you
the world on a silver platter. Lily, I'll make you
She rubbed her little hand up and down his
"How much money we got now, Luke?"
"Enough," he boasted, "to live like millionaires
for maybe a week in Boston."
"Luke," she said earnestly, "we're not going
He was pleased. "Our honeymoon will last
wherever we are."
She was almost impatient. "It ain't that ! "
He drew away from her and stared down at her
"What in the name of God—"
"Let's eat," she said, and dug about for Ma
She put the linen napkin on her lap and laid
out the sandwiches, licking her fingers when the
mayonnaise or jam or butter had oozed through.
"Chicken," she announced, "and ham, and I
reckon this is po'k, Luke 1 "
He balanced the coffee on his knee. "There's
cups somewheres, Lily."
Presently they were hungrily eating, Luke al-
"We've caught our train," said Lily, with a
little nervous laugh. He was making her rather
He took a great gulp of coffee.
"Always was a fast eater. Father before me
Her hand tightened over his. "You could die,"
she said with real concern, "of indigestion."
He ducked his head suddenly and kissed her
"But I'll make you your million before I do."
Thus she let him go back to his eating, and she
gave him an almost indulgent smile.
Once in the vast South Station they stood for a
moment, bewildered. They both felt newly mar-
ried and foolishly young. Lily had a sudden
sense of panic. Suppose Ma Manda never for-
PROLOGUE TO A LIFE
gave them. Suppose Luke died or deserted her.
Suppose she was never able to bear a child.
And then she saw Mamie Cole coming toward
them. She flew into her arms.
"The blushing bride and groom ! " cried Mamie,
and offered her cheek to Luke.
"Well, it's nice to see you," said Luke, rather
shyly kissing her.
"I'm only off for an hour," she explained, "so
we better get up to the flat. I got you three real
nice rooms, Lily, in front."
"Three—?" echoed Luke. His voice fell in
disappointment. "I kinda thought— a hotel—"
"Luke ! " Lily caught his arm fast. Her brown
eyes were dark with pleading. "Luke, it's not a
hotel room I want. It's a home."
He asked in bewilderment: "Here— in Bos-
"Listen, we're not going back. We're laying
our corner-stone here. There's far and away
more business in Boston than in Springfield. Just
you see. I want my husband. Luke, I want my
home. I want my— son. Back home we'd have
to live with your mother. She's got that big
house. And, Luke, I can't get along with no
women. I almost hate women. They're not
honest. They're weaklings. They care about
cheap things. God knows you're going to find it
hard to live with me— and you love me. I don't
want nothing but my man and my son. That's
He had the most terrible longing to take her
in his arms.
"Your man and your son ? Lily, my girl, you've
got your man. By God, you'll have your
son. . . ."
In 1898 Lily gave birth to twins.
They were boys, with Lily's soft yellow skin
and fine brown eyes, and all about them the look
of her, somehow. Jamie and John. They were
completely sons of Lily. To her they were gods.
Luke had been getting on in a fair sort of way
before the twins were born. He had opened a
tiny lunch stand in the South End. Lily had
been helping with the cooking. After a barely
perceptible start, business had picked up nicely.
Luke could cook almost as well as his mother.
And Lily, growing prettier and plumper every
day, and rapidly learning badinage, was an ob-
She worked until the week before the twins
were born. Then Ma Manda, in panicky self-
reproach, hurried on to Boston, saw to it that a
proper girl was hired, packed Lily off to the New
England Hospital, and looked about at houses.
She decided on a red-brick one on a quiet street
in Brookline, and bought it through a profiteer-
ing agent. She ordered atrocious furniture on the
credit plan (Lily returned it piece by piece later),
and awaited the birth of her grandchild in grim
To the triumphant Lily the world existed for
two golden babies. These were her lives to shape
and guide. These were her souls to expand. She,
with her constant faith, must quicken their
So the years passed. Jamie and John were
three and able to read. Then John at four could
bang out a harmony on the new upright piano.
Jamie at six was doing third grade lessons. . . .
They were nine. And Lily's pride, and joy,
and love, and life. They had not cried in their
cradle. They had never been jealous of each
other. They had given her and Luke whole-
heartedly their love. They wrote regularly and
beautifully to their grandmother. Their teachers
adored them. Despite their talents, they were
manly, and popular with children. They had
never been ill. They were growing like weeds.
John, at the Boston Conservatory, had been
singled out as an extraordinary pupil. His little
sensitive face had stared out of many daily pa-
pers. Jamie, in the seventh grade, leading his
class, was the marvel of his school. He could
solve the mathematical problems of high school
students. He could also discuss his future with
calm assurance. . . .
Lily was thirty-two now. And a housewife.
Occasionally she swept into the shop which had
been yearly enlarged until it comprised three
wide windows and twenty-two tables. The doc-
tors and lawyers who frequented the place would
rise and eagerly greet her. She was completely
complacent. She was fat, but her skin was firm
and soft to Luke's touch. Her eyes were clear
and content. There were always tender anec-
dotes about her boys. Jamie and John. The
realization of her dreams, the growing fulfillment
of her hopes, the latent genius quickening.
She walked in peace. She knew ten years of
utter harmony. She was therefore totally unpre-
pared for any swift disruption.
In 1908 the twins were ten. Though they were
young men now with certain futures, they were
still very charming, and went swimming or skat-
ing with the boys on their block whenever they
were called for. . . .
It was on the last day of March, going all too
meekly like a Iamb, that Lily, in her kitchen,
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
making the raisin-stuffed bread pudding the twins smart little boys. Now death had shattered their
adored, sat down suddenly with her hand to her spell for him. He even wondered vaguely why it
throat, and her heart in a lump against it. She did not occur to Lily she might have another
was alone, but she knew she was not ill. She child.
made no attempt to cry out to a neighbor. She One night, after a silent meal that Luke had
could see, as clearly as though she stood at the cooked himself to tempt the too light appetite of
pond's edge, the twins, their arms tight about each his women, Lily rose abruptly from the supper
other, crashing through the treacherous ice, mak- table, and with the knuckles of her clenched fists
ing no outcry, their eyes wide with despair, showing white, said in a voice that she tried to
dragged swiftly down, brought up again to break keep steady: "Luke, I'm sleeping in the twins'
her heart forever, and Jamie's red scarf, that Ma room tonight. I— I guess I'll go on up now.
Manda had knitted for him, floating. . . . G'night, Ma Manda. 'Night, Luke."
Within twenty minutes three frightened chil- An hour later, when he softly tried the door, it
dren brought her the news. Two days later their was locked,
bodies were found. Lily identified them in a dim ^
dank morgue. A year passed. Lily, a little mad in her con-
The twins lay together in a satin-lined casket stant communion with her dead, had grown some-
in the flower-filled parlor. They were very lovely how hauntingly lovely, with her loosened hair
in their last sleep. The undertaker's art had always tangled, her face thin and pale and ex-
restored them and enhanced them. There was quisite, and her eyes large and brightly knowing,
about their mouths that too exquisite beauty that Now she was voluble with Ma Manda, though
death brings to the mouths of children who die there were no notes in her voice. She kept up a
in pain. Dead, they were more similar than liv- continual stream of pathetic reminiscences. And
ing. And it was James Who looked like John. . . . she went about her house with her hands out-
James and John were Lily. James and John stretched briefly to caress some memorial to her
were dead. Only the fact that she had watched boys.
her heart and soul flung into the earth with her Ma Manda indulged her. To her there was
sons kept Lily's body alive. She was spiritually only beauty in Lily's crazy devotion. She had
a dead woman walking in the patient hope of loved Luke's golden sons more than she had ever
physical release. There was no youth in her any loved Luke. As with Lily, throughout their
more. Her body was no longer firm, but flabby, growing, they had become her sole reality. With
Her eyes were lustreless. Her lips that had al- the ancient's idea of duty, she kept their memory
ways been a little too thin were a line now that fresh, her sorrow keen. She went regularly to a
went sharply down at each corner. And the voice Baptist church and wailed when the preacher
that had bantered richly with her boys, that had harangued the dead.
thrilled like a girl's at the intimate bass of a And always for Luke, in his starved normal
man, was quavering, and querulous, and, all too passion, surprisingly not the brute, Lily's light
often, still. . . . body was a golden mesh.
Ma Manda stayed on. Lily wanted it. They Lily had sat by an open window, staring up at
were held by their mutual bereavement. The the stars, her bare feet on a chilled floor, her
twins, dead, were more potent than ever they nightgown fluting in the wind. Presently she
could have been, living. Now Lily and Ma had begun to sneeze. Soon her eyes and her nose
Manda knew there was nothing these boys could were running. When she got into Jamie's white
not have done, no world they would not have bed, she felt a great wave engulf her. In the
conquered, had they lived. morning she was very ill.
Ma Manda one week-end returned to Spring- Lily felt that she was dying. And she was
field, sold her house and the two fine mares, and afraid to die. She hated pain. She had given no
her business and her lease to a prosperous Ger- thought to death before the death of her twins.
man. Her only sentimentalities were two rib- After that she had thought of her going as only
boned packets of letters. a dreamless sleeping and a waking with her sons.
Luke was sorry that the twins were dead, but Now there was something in her chest that was
his heart was not broken . Lily was his world, making her last hours torture. And a cough that
While she lived there was hope, and love, and tore her from the hot pillows and started that
life. He had no real conception of the genius of jerk and pull in her heart. Sometimes her breath
the twins. He had always thought of them as was a shudder that shook her body.
PROLOGUE TO A LIFE
In the first hours of the third night, she
clutched at Ma Manda and stared up at her with
eyes so full of piteous appeal that Ma Manda
said sharply and involuntarily: "Lily, my child,
you best let Luke in. He's a great one for heal-
ing. There's the power of the Almighty in his
Lily made a little gesture of acquiescence. Ma
Manda went softly, fumbling in her tears.
Luke bent over Lily. His blue eyes burned.
They were dark and deep and glowing. She
felt her own eyes caught in them. Felt her
senses drowning. He flung one hand up to the
sky, the fingers apart and unbending. The other
he pressed against her chest till his flesh and her
flesh were one.
He was exalted and inspired. The muscles
leaped in his arm. He was trembling and black
"Lily, my girl, God's going to help you. God
in His heaven's got to hear my prayer ! Just put
your faith in me, my darling. I got my faith in
Him. I got a gift from the heavenly Father.
Praise His name ! Lily, my Lily, I got the
power to heal ! "
Strength surged out of him— went swinging
down through the arm upraised, flashed through
his straining body, then shot down and tingled
in his fingers which had melted into her breast.
They were like rays, destroying. Five streams
of life, pouring into her sick veins, fierce, tumul-
tous, until the poison and the pain burst into
rivulets of sweat that ran swift and long down
her quivering body, and presently left her washed
clean and quiet and very, very tired.
Then Luke's words came in a rush, in the voice
of one who had fought a hard fight, or run a long
race, yet deep and tremblingly beautiful.
"God, be praised! God, the Maker, we
humbly thank Thee ! Thou heard ! Thou
heard ! ! Thou gave me strength to heal ! O
God, this poor child— my Lily— she's well ! She
can rise and take up her bed and walk ! O God,
Thou art the Father of all living! Thou art
life ! Thou art love ! Thou art love ! ! Thou
art love III"
He slumped down on his knees and burst into
wild tears. His head went bumping against
In her relief and gratitude and wonderment,
she felt her first compassion for her husband. In
his weakness she was strong. She was a mother.
He clung to her. He was a man sick with
Presently she said: "Lie with me, Luke," and
drew him up into her arms.
For Lily, and for Luke, and for Ma Manda,
after a week or two, that night, crowded out of
their consciousness, might never have been. Lily
went back to her inner life ; Ma Manda to the
spiritual needs of her daughter-in-law and the
physical needs of her son ; Luke to the old apa-
thetic content in Lily's apparent contentment.
But one Sunday morning as he lay staring at a
bright patch of sunlight on the wall and hearing
faintly the bells of the Mission Church without
emotion, the door creaked sharply.
Lily came in and stood at the foot of his bed.
He sat up in real surprise and made a vague
gesture toward his bathrobe.
Her eyes were level into his and full of scorn.
Her face was pale and proud. Her lips were a
thin twist of contempt.
She was so lovely and so terrible in her fury
that he caught his breath.
He scuttled down to the foot of the bed and
gripped her wrist tight.
"Lily, you sick? For God's sake, what ails
She flung her arm free. "I'm going to have a
child. Another child! Well, it's yours. I've
borne my babies. And I've buried them. This
is your little black brat, d'you hear? You can
keep it or kill it. If it wasn't for my babies in
heaven, I'd get rid of it with the deadliest poison.
But I can't damn my soul to hell for a wretched
child that may be born dead. And if it lives"—
her voice was a wail— "I curse it to my despair !"
For the first time since his childhood, Luke
flung himself down full length on the bed and
cried. . . .
In the months that followed, Ma Manda and
Luke, in their terrific watchfulness, had a nine
months' travail, too.
Lily's child was born on a spring morning in a
labor so fierce that both of them, after hours of
struggle, lay utterly spent; the child in the big
white crib that had been the twins', the mother,
for the last time, on her own great mahogany
Lily was conscious, and calm. She was dying
as she had wanted to die, painlessly. She felt no
curiosity about her baby. She had heard a sharp
whisper. "It's a girl," which she had half ex-
pected, and had turned her face from the sound
of it to summon all of her strength for a bitter
Presently Luke came to stare down at her. His
eyes were filled with a great desperation. He,
too, had forgotten the new baby. Lily was dying.
"Lily"— his voice was deep and tender— "just
put your faith in God. My Father has never
failed me. He'll pull you through."
She was quietly exalted. "I have come
"Lily, I love you. Don't act that way. Put
your hand in mine. Let me help you, my dar-
His hand went out to her. She saw the fingers
stiffen, straighten, and the muscles pulling in
But she made no move.
"Are you too weak? Let me raise your hand.
The power of God is in me. It leaps like a young
ram. Only touch me, Lily ! "
Ma Manda, kneeling at the foot of the bed,
wrung her hands and wailed, "Only touch him,
Her eyes were wide and seeking. Her mouth
was tremulous and beautiful. With a tremendous
effort she raised herself up from her pillow. Her
braids went lopping over her breasts.
Her hands went out, slowly, gropingly. Luke
waited, quivering, his heart in his mouth.
But then she sighed sharply. Her hands
clasped tightly. Her eyes were passionate. Her
face was glorious.
It was Ma Manda who scrambled to her feet
and laid her back on the pillow, and knew that
she was dead, and gently brushed the lids over
In the instant when her soul leaped to the sun,
the new baby whimpered, once, then again, and
was still. Luke turned toward it with a furious
oath. He bent over the crib and looked down at
the tiny dark bundle that was scarcely anything
at all, with its quiet hands and shut eyes.
In the sudden hope that it had died, he put his
hand over its heart.
The baby opened its eyes. They were blue —
as deeply blue as his own, but enormous and in-
finitely sad. It was their utter despairing that
moved him. He felt for this child a possessive
tenderness such as the twins had never inspired.
It was a woman-child. He understood her
So he knelt and slapped her face hard, and
breathed into her mouth, and cried out Lily I
Lily! naming her. He urged the strength in his
spatulate fingers to quicken the beat of her heart.
He prayed, "God, be merciful !" again and again.
She broke into a lusty wail and fell into a
normal sleep, with the tears still wet on her
Lily was dead, and Lily was not dead. A
mother is the creator of life. And God cannot
After the blithesome world succumbs in rest,
And stars appear to deck the barren night,
I choose a path I think leads to delight.
Alone I trample, feeling I'm a guest
Of Nature. Hark! a song bird chirps its best
To cheer me in my solitary flight
From loneliness. Yet, still within my sight,
I sense a calling for his mate to nest.
The birds are mating, flowers mingling too.
The frisky waters in that splashing brook
Sing songs -of love . . . With love she weds the sea.
The pallid moon takes on a blending hue
From out the purple sky . . . And so I took
This path not knowing Nature laughs at me.
Earl Lawson Sydnor.
By EDYTHE MAE GORDON
I did not understand :
I only knew
That ere he turned to go
His eyes strayed to the Madonna,
There on my chamber wall.
She smiled on the Infant Jesus
Cradled in her arms.
Sorrow wells in this breast
No child has e'er caressed.
From my window, I see
Naked trees, stripped of their leaves.
Now he is gone,
Your graceful bronze limbs
Are like palm leaves
In the wind.
You'd wear your nudity
With charming candor:
The artificial and false
One Summer s Day
One Summer's day
Love and I
Walked toward the horizon.
The cool, fresh breeze
Played among the trees.
We grew weary,
Love and I,
And fell asleep.
When I awoke
I was alone . . .
Love had gone.
Your body is beautiful
Your nature artistic.
My dormant soul is stimulated
By your smile.
Portrait of a "Peculiar" Woman
By FLORIDA RUFFIN RIDLEY
LTHOUGH she had been a conspicuous
figure in the little New England town,
no one seems to have known Maria
Peters very intimately, notwithstanding
that the old house on the outskirts had
never sheltered any others than the people from
whom she had descended. There she lived alone
with her children, products of New England soil
and of the intermarriage of Indians, Negroes,
We knew her chiefly through seeing her at
public meetings; she used to journey into the
city regularly to contribute to "causes," particu-
larly to the cause of the Negro, although she
never seemed to identify herself with the colored
people in any but an impersonally friendly way.
She could not pass unnoticed ; her skin had the
unlightened darkness that the red of the Indian
gives the black of the Negro, and the blend of
the three races had given strength and distinc-
tion to her features. Her clothes were the neat,
well-worn ones of a careful and saving New
Englander. She evidently had a brood of chil-
dren, for now and then one accompanied her, and
it always seemed to be a different one.
It is very easy, in the turmoil of a big city, to
lose sight of even unusual figures; nevertheless
there are always those who have time and curi-
osity to investigate anything, and it was to
these I had to turn for information after her
death, which so closely followed the tragic tak-
ing off of her youngest son.
In her home town they had, for want of more
discriminating judgment, called her "peculiar,"
and yet her peculiarities had won her immense
respect. She was an accepted part of the town,—
few could remember when she had not been
there ; as a property holder, she exercised her
rights and with wisdom ; in public affairs, as a
member of the Congregational church, she was
outstanding; as the mother of four school boys,
she carried an air of authority, which, aug-
mented by the dignity and reticence of her man-
ner, was felt, even if it was not understood.
The more I learned about her, the more fas-
cinated I became with her singular personality;
it took me a long time to get even the ordinary
details of her life, for all her sons were dead and
she had evidently had no confidant after the
death of her husband.
It was through an old scrap book, which was
being thrown away when strangers were dispos-
ing of her effects, that I got the clues which ex-
plained her life to me; a book, the contents of
which, at first sight, seemed to be practically
valueless, but which took on illumination when
interpreted in the light of the life of the woman
and aided by many scattered "thoughts" entered
in her awkward handwriting.
It was necessary to make many readings of
these notes to get the pitch by which her life
was tuned. The instinctive repudiation of
trammels inherited from her Indian ancestry, the
courage and pride of the Negro forbear who
broke his chains, the stubborn insistence upon
"rights" of the Yankee backwoodsman, who
broke into the family, — all these added to the
Puritan austerity which lingered in the atmos-
phere in which she had been reared,— had con-
tributed to the development of a singularly com-
plex nature. More than this: there ran
through this intricate composition a sharp but
golden note of idealism, an idealism created and
nurtured by contacts with fine minds of old New
Under the pressure of these emotions she had
developed a passion for freedom— not only the
freedom of the body, but freedom of the spirit.
It is doubtful whether she ever stated this feel-
ing in words, but the strongest evidence that
the passion existed lay in the attitude which she
took in regard to her "place" in life. She pro-
tested against being designated a "Negro" and
saddled with all the shortcomings and vices so
carelessly and unconcernedly heaped upon those
possessing color. She fought against these
shackles and vowed to consecrate herself to the
task of preserving and safe-guarding the spirit
of her children. She evidently was convinced
that constant humiliation and repressions, the
forced consideration of every matter from a
racial standpoint, did not contribute towards de-
veloping nobility of character.
In her comparatively withdrawn and self-cen-
tered life, Maria Peters had worked out a phi-
s losophy for herself and had the tenacity to stick
to her convictions. Not only did she reject the
word "Negro," but she kept from her children, as
far as she was able, all printed matter that car-
ried disparaging allusions to color. She spent
her limited funds recklessly for good books: it
was her idea to link her children, who had in-
herited the blood of many races, with humanity
generally. Specifically, they were Americans.
The "stern and rock-bound coast" was their
coast; "freedom's fruits" belonged also to them.
She ignored contrary views on this matter and
believed people got what they insisted upon
With all this, she did not quail from life. She
was not afraid to present herself and her chil-
dren at doors that were supposed to be closed ;
looking straight into the eyes of those in charge,
she called for accommodation in theatres, in
restaurants, in concert halls,— in all places that
were supposed to draw lines. And, for some
reason, the lines disappeared.
Her ideas had been born with her ; they were
a part of her youth and were not dispelled when
she was married. Her husband, a fine-looking
mulatto, had come to the New England woods
to find relief from discriminating experiences:
Maria's thrifty forbears had gathered many acres
of farm and woodland, and Peters had subdued
some of his bitterness in efforts to make this in-
heritance a financial success. Besides, his raw
wounds were healed in the atmosphere that
Maria had created. He died early and left Maria
with four children and a good home, with an
income that v/ould be small today, but which
went a long way at that time and in that
I was not able to gather much information
about the children's reaction to the mother's
training, but it is well known that the two elder
boys came out of the local high school popular
with their mates, fearless, and upstanding. They
passed from the school almost directly into the
arms of an enlisting officer for the World War.
Maria Peters was by this time a woman of
over sixty. One of her four boys had died and
the youngest was still in school. There was no
prouder mother in America than she when her
two boys marched off to fight "for democracy."
She was offering all that she had for the cause
that to her was as dear as life. x\lthough it gave
her surprise, she did not quail when her boys
were separated from their school comrades and
placed, because they had dark skins, in Negro
camps : she had tried to train them, she said, "to
know no color difference but to be men among
So the two eldest sons marched away, as had
numbers of their ancestors, to fight and die for
Their bodies were never sent home but the
mother mortgaged about all she possessed to
erect, in the graveyard of the now decaying
country town, a shaft to the memory of her
Set into the stone are two protected portraits
disclosing clearly the mixed blood of her two
handsome sons. Underneath she has placed the
inscription: "Blessed are they who live and die
for a righteous cause."
Nobody knows definitely why the younger
boy, who had come to his maturity during the
war, was sent on the journey that resulted in
his death. It is generally thought that he left
home to look up some clues of his father's early
life. Possibly there were intimations of some
little property descending to him. However
that may be, Maria Peters sent her son, an in-
experienced boy with no adequate knowledge of
conditions, with only his manly instincts to pro-
tect him, into an especially hostile country. To
be sure, no ordinarily intelligent boy could have
reached his age without some understanding of
the restrictions and worse in the paths of those
with dark skins, but the efforts of his mother to
keep him from embittering and soul-crushing
contacts had been in the main successful, and
he set out on his errand ready to receive and
expecting to give only friendliness.
A clear, unbiased account of the incidents
that led to the death of David Peters was never
obtained, although some facts have been veri-
The boy had been travelling by automobile,
and, probably out of curiosity, he had stopped,
in this distant town, to join a crowd that was
listening to the farewell speech of a departing
political orator of loud voice and small caliber.
Running short of material, the speaker was try-
ing to make effects by throwing in some insult-
ing references to the Negro voter. For good
measure he let loose the full force of his vitupera-
tion on the black women of America.
Just exactly what he said was lost in the fierce
excitement which followed when David Peters
rose in his open car, and in the clear, ringing
tones of youth, cried out, "You are a liar!"
Maria Peters did recover the body of this son,
riddled as it was with bullet wounds, for there
can always be found those who respond to a
courageous spirit. Before her death, which oc-
curred soon afterwards, she had placed in the
stone shaft a third portrait and a concluding in-
"American boys who have joined the glorious
army of departed American patriots."
This was the last act of a "peculiar" woman,
By HELENE JOHNSON
Fillin' ash cans,
Fixin' drain pipes,
Answerin' a million calls,
Answerin' a million bells,
All day, half the night—
The yassuhs, the nosuhs,
The grins, the nods, the bowin'—
It sure wasn't no picnic
Bein' a janitor in a big apartment house in Harlem.
But, say, it was better than bein' back down home
Scrapin' to the buchra. And he made good money, too,
With tips, now and then, for extra. His wife didn't have
To go out to do day's work any more, and Sammy, his only child,
Went to school and learned readin' and writin'. And he,
Big Sam, had been able to join the local lodge.
He would have rather gone without his vittles
Than not pay his lodge dues,
Than not march in the lodge parade,
Than not wear his uniform of blue and gold and orange,
And high white plumes and yellow braid and gold epaulets,
And snow-white gloves and shining black shoes and tassels,
And silk ribbons and feathers and big bright buttons and
Color, color, color.
God, how he loved it I He loved it better than food and drink, —
Better than Love itself.
Every night after work, after
The stove stokin'
The garbage slingin',
The ashcan fillin',
The stair washin',
The yassuhs and nosuhs and the grins and nods and bowin',
He'd go downstairs to his basement flat and put it on.
And stand in front of his crazy old mirror and make funny
Gestures and military signs and talk to himself and click
His heels together and curse and swear like a major or a
General. And always he'd be the leader, the head, and
The others, the make-believe others, would say yassuh and nosuh,
And grin and nod and bow. Gold and yellow and blue-
God, how he loved it !
That old Rev. Giddings was a fool, telling him it was a sin
To dress up and have music and march when somebody died.
"God don't like that," he said. "God, He wants mourning
And wailing and dark clothes. He don't want all that worldly
Music and color for his dead children. He don't want all that
Regalia. It hurts Him, Brother, it hurts Him. It's vanity,
That's all. You don't know, Brother, that blue and gold
You wear — the flames of Hell ; that red— the blood of His
Crucified Son, those plumes and feathers — they mocked Christ
With them once. God don't like that regalia, son. God don't
Like it. I got to stay in the lodge or I'd lose my flock.
You know that, Brother. But dress in black when I die, Brother,
And beat your breast. I don't want no regalia."
But Sam couldn't understand. He loved it so, that uniform.
What had it to do with God?
Nights when the lodge went on parade. Nights when there was
A funeral and they had to march in a long, beautiful procession.
His wife was proud of him, and so was Sammy, his son,
Who wanted to be a general in the army.
If only there might be a funeral . . .
And then one night Rev. Giddings died
And Sam had a chance to wear his uniform —
His uniform of blue and gold and orange —
And high white plumes and yellow braid and gold epaulets,
And snow-white gloves and shining black shoes and tassels,
And silk ribbons and feathers and big bright buttons,
And color, color, color.
But it was different. Reverend Giddings must have conjured him.
He was scared. His plumes bent him over and the color before
Him was like Hell fire. And there was Rev. Giddings
Smiling at him. "God don't like all that regalia, Brother,
God don't like it." The blue and gold flames leaped up
And burned him. Red swarmed before him, banners,
Ribbons. He saw strips of blood, streams of blood flowing
About him — "The blood of His Crucified Son." And the music,
The drums, the bugles — The little red devils dancing before
His eyes — The flames lapping up the blood — Red, blue, gold.
God, how he hated it !
He snatched off his plumes, tore off his colors, beat his breast.
It was hard to make him out in all that flood of color.
He seemed so little and tired and bent and dark and humble.
He looked so funny, beating his breast that way.
In fact, he looked more like the little colored janitor
Who stoked stoves,
And emptied garbage,
And piled ashcans,
And scrubbed stairs
In a big apartment house in Harlem,
Than anything else.
Negro Fictionist in America
By EUGENE GORDON
O FAR, this country has not produced
one Negro capable of presenting a sin-
cere picture of himself or his people."
Thus an obiter dictum in an article
called "Whites Writing up Blacks,"
in the Dial of January, this year. Its
author, a white youth of twenty-five named
Albert Halper, was, until recently, on the night
staff of the Chicago post office: he is, therefore,
extraordinarily qualified to criticize the Negro's
"Those [Negro] authors are forced to write
such stuff as the book publishers will accept, or
not write at all. The real fault is with the book
publishers, who reject real literature which, if
accepted and published, would startle and thrill
the world."' That is not, as it appears to be,
an intentional refutation of the statement made
by Mr. Halper. It is merely the wrathful
declaration of one E. Robert Bennett, colored,
in the Negro press of the country. However, the
tone of Mr. Bennett's protest indicates that he
has perhaps more than once failed, with his
offerings, to make impression on the calloused
hearts of publishers. He is, therefore, extra-
ordinarily qualified to criticize the Negro's
And I ? Oh, but I am not a critic at all ! I
am only a reporter describing what I have ob-
served. It chances, however, that through
years of reading almost everything Negroes pub-
lished, to say nothing of close personal associa-
tion with many of the writers, I have acquired
a fairly accurate knowledge of their accomplish-
ments as well as a gage for their capabilities.
My purpose herein is simply to set down cer-
tain facts that are hardly appreciated even by
hosts of supposedly well-read Americans.
Charles W. Chestnutt, born in Cleveland
seventy-one years ago, was the first American
of African strain to "make" the Atlantic
Monthly. He did it with a series of short
stories which quite faithfully depicted a type
of southern Negro. A bright lad, Charles was
a teacher of black youth in a southern public
school at sixteen, being at the same time a
critical student of southern Negro customs and
dialects. He showed, later, that he had retained
what he there absorbed, when, in 1887, he began
in the Atlantic those tales which Houghton,
Mifflin and Company afterwards published as
"The Conjure Woman" and the "Wife of His
Youth and Other Stories of the Color Line." In
1900 the same publishers issued Chestnutt's "The
House Behind the Cedars"; in 1901, "The Mar-
row of Tradition"; and in 1905, "The Colonel's
Dream," all novels and all available now at
most city libraries. His short stories (as well
as his novels), although vehicles for propaganda,
indicate his reverence of technique. Most of
them are skilfully constructed and highly pol-
ished, and if his characters more often limp
than spring spontaneously into living beings,
they nevertheless impress themselves as being
more than mere puppets. Quite frequently they
are authentic persons.
Of his three novels, "The House Behind the
Cedars" is undoubtedly best. Dealing wholly
with white and black of the post-Civil-War
period, the story is encumbered in its prog-
ress by devious bypaths into special pleading,
and what might have been an artistic achieve-
ment becomes a fairly interesting propagandic
tract. The Negro of fiction was antithetical of
the Negro of actuality. Indubitably, he was too
angelic to be authentic. He was as much lack-
ing in authenticity as were the immaculately
conceived colonels and ladies of Thomas Nel-
son Page's and George W. Cable's books, They
all were overburdened toward the side of vir-
Paul Laurence Dunbar succeeded Chestnutt
as a fictionist, but there is neither uniqueness
of theme nor distinction of treatment in this
excellent poet's prose. His tales are common-
place narratives, ordinarily and, often, uninter-
estingly told. His characters remain simply
characters, never emerging from the chrysalis
of the printed word. Malindy, in that superb
dialect poem, "When Malindy Sings," the maiden
in "Mandy Lou," and the ensemble of "The
Party," are far more real to me than any char-
acter I have encountered in Dunbar's prose
stories. But these folks are real: they possess
the very sincerity of humanness which the Dial
NEGRO FICTIONISTS IN AMERICA
critic deplored as being totally absent from Cecil Blue. Most of these are youthful new-
Negro writings. comers, the majority of them having emerged
The people of W. E. Burghardt Du Bois's through the medium of short-story contests con-
"The Quest of the Silver Fleece," the next Negro ducted by Opportunity : Journal of Negro Life
novel of consequence to follow Dunbar's, are and the Crisis, and through the general invita-
hardly less cold symbols than the poet's. Du tion broadcast by the new feature section of
Bois had undeniably contributed genuine litera- more than a dozen Negro weeklies. Many of
ture to America in "The Souls of Black Folk," these names are never seen outside Negro pub-
a collection of essays and sketches, but when lications, but in this sphere they hold potent
he turned novelist in 1911 he disappointed many charm for thousands. Possessing the vitality
hearty admirers. The economic status of the of youth as well as youth's point of view, and
Negro farmer, the subsidizing of certain Negro being wholly familiar with stort-story technique
schools, and Negro social life in Washington, as well as their subject, these writers are suc-
were and are subjects of fictional importance, cessful in a limited sense,
but Du Bois was not the man for the job. As Walter White's "The Fire in the Flint" is the
an essayist he was moving. He was effective story of a southern tragedy involving an edu-
in his sketches. But as a novelist he was stilted, cated Negro family ; the elder son, a recent grad-
affected, self-conscious, and artificial. His char- uate of a northern medical school, begins prac-
acters were images who bore the names of per- tice in hostile surroundings, and is subsequently
sons. True, the author said that these images defeated. "Flight" relates the oft-repeated tale
entertained certain thoughts and performed cer- of the near-white (or near-"black") woman
tain acts, but he gave his assertion no support who passes nonchalantly back and forth across
other than his word, and that was not enough, the color line, finally resolving upon the nether
Nothing in the characters' conduct indicated side as the more attractive,
their superiority above marionettes in a puppet For its delineation of character, "Flight" is
show. more successful than "Fire in the Flint." It is
On the other hand, Du Bois's "The Souls of a more artistically rendered piece of work. There
Black Folk" had presented some human beings is less biased propaganda here: the story in its
who truly had souls. They were as much alive, very unfolding resolves itself into a more subtle
as sincerely authentic, as their antetypes of the and, hence, a more effective, preachment than
southern fields. the other book affords in all its vociferous shout-
ing. Not that "Fire in the Flint" is not sincere
jjj enough as a picture of one Negro: it is sincere
but not accurate. The hero is too heroic and
Since the World War seven or eight new the villain too villainous. There is no leaven
Negro novelists have appeared, among them be- of deviltry in the one or of godliness in the
ing Walter White, with "Fire in the Flint" and other. The veriest cutthroat knave may slobber
"Flight" ; Joshua H. Jones, Jr., with "By sentimentally over a bruised flower, as we know,
Sanction of Law"; Jessie Fauset, with "There while a Sir Galahad may often brood over a
is Confusion" and "Plum Bun"; Claude Mc- secret sin. Did not Jesus lose His temper and
Kay, with "Home to Harlem" and "Banjo"; commit assault and battery in the temple?
Nella Larsen, "Quicksand" ; and Rudolph Fisher, The style of "The Fire in the Flint" is sim-
with "The Walls of Jericho." Du Bois has ilar to an investigator's bald report of an un-
recently returned with a novel called "The Dark healthy social state. Walter White has gone fre-
Princess," a tale far superior to "The Quest of quently into the South to pry into causes of
the Silver Fleece" as a piece of workmanship, lynchings. This is his job, as a member of the
and far more significant as a social document. National Association for the Advancement of
And even as I write, "The Blacker the Berry," Colored People. I have read many of his official
by Wallace Thurman, perhaps the youngest of reports, and it has seemed to me that most of
these fictionists, comes to my desk. them are as fully alive as his first novel was : a
Some current short story writers who may not recital of bare, unattractive, monstrous facts,
be ignored are Rudolph Fisher, Eric Waldron, unrelieved by any artistic embellishment.
Jean Toomer, Dorothy West, Gertrude Schalk, "Flight" showed improvement. There was
Zora Neale Hurston, Arthur Huff Fauset, John here an obvious attempt to be literary, an at-
Matheus, John P. Davis, Langston Hughes, and tempt which did not, oddly, injure the story.
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
Like the other one, this, too, presents a sincere, Representing the lowest stratum of Harlem,
if somewhat distorted, picture of certain kinds of the denizens of this tale are human beings, not-
colored Americans. Until some writer succeeds, withstanding their occasional incomprehensible
after long years and diligent study, in giving us behavior and their speaking a tongue the like of
a composite portrait of the American Negro, which no human ear has heard. The story,
North South, East and West,— a Negro who is briefly, concerns an American Negro who, de-
at once literate and illiterate, sophisticated and serting the A. E. F. in France, comes home,
naive, cultured and uncultured,— we need not settles again into the cesspool from which the
expect to encounter a genuine picture of the draft had jerked him, and resumes his ad-
Negro. There is no such creature, if we are to ventures in lovemaking.
take "the Negro" to mean an individual that McKay's pictures of certain kinds of Negroes
embodies all the attributes of more than twelve are almost photographic in their accuracy, but
million separate organisims. the situations in which these Negroes are fre-
"Plum Bun" is Jessie Fauset's latest novel, quently cast are artificial and incredible. One
I have seen it only briefly and have not, there- feels that the author, after creating his men and
fore, had time to read it. An English house first women, did not know what to set them to doing ;
published it. It has recently been brought out that, instead of loosing them into their natural
in this country by Stokes. I hope it is more habitat and allowing them naturally to make
nearly finished in its character portrayal and situations in accord with their characters and
in its approach toward authenticity with respect temperaments (inevitable consequences of their
to actual life, than "There is Confusion" was. being who they were), he laboriously invented
Those who have read it assure me that it is. situations and hurled his people, like toys, into
The chief weakness of the latter story is, to me, them. So we come upon two naked black
its immobility. For instance, the characters women fighting like female dogs in a Harlem
carry on colloquies, rather than conversations, backyard; we meet men and women who, al-
They suggest amateur players reciting a hard- though they are unmistakably of the menial
learned dialogue,— reciting it without having class, never work: they perpetually make love,
sensed fully the spirit of it. I believe that largely while they pass from one degree of alcoholic
because of this weakness the story remains stupefaction to another. And so on. More-
static, over, Mr. McKay's dialect strikes the American
"By Sanction of Law," by Joshua H. Jones, reader as false. It is false. No American-born
Jr., presents an instance of a story's beginning Negro, for instance, says "this a-night" for "to-
most promisingly and ending most wretchedly, night." Some West Indians, however, do. Mc-
Weaknesses become apparent long before the Kay has been abroad so long that he has con-
end comes in sight, however. "By Sanction of fused in his memory the dialect of the Negro
Law" tells the story of a Negro youth, in the from the southern states with that of illiterate
South, who loves a white girl. After much Jamaican blacks. The result is a painful in-
tribulation they get married. It is thereupon congruity. On the other hand, this author's
discovered that the girl is not white but colored, pictures of certain aspects of Harlem life are
The book, ending thus promptly, loses all point, not only sincere but authentic. At times he
sense, and reason for having been written. Asked traps the flavor and the color and the odor of
why he did not follow his idea to a logical con- Harlem's cabarets and her teeming horde of
elusion and have the black youth married to the flat dwellers, and he successfully transmits these
white girl, Mr. Jones told me that he discovered, elusive ingredients to the book. This being
at the last moment, that he couldn't. The couple true, the faults I have pointed out become in-
could not have been legally married in the consequential to the mind of the casual reader.
South! There was nothing else to do then, he Looking for bare entertainment, he finds it in
said, than suddenly to inflict upon the proud "Home to Harlem."
nordic an African ancestry! The book is thor- Nella Larsen in "Quicksand" writes beauti-
oughly ruined,— that is, that portion of it which fully at first ; later, she apparently loses all
was not previously ruined by slipshod writing sense of beauty of style, and her work reveals
and impossible situations. her as being rather wearied with her task. Some-
A criticism similar to the one made of Miss what beyond the middle of her book, Miss Lar-
Fauset's "There is Confusion" could never be sen apparently made no effort to maintain the
made of Claude McKay's "Home to Harlem." attractive style of the beginning. Thencefor-
NEGRO FICTIONISTS IN AMERICA
ward the tale limps like a tired freshman's Eng-
lish composition. Helga Crane, the central char-
acter of "Quicksand," is quite real at times.
Until she perversely does a most unhuman
thing, she is consistently the kind of human being
most of us know,— ordinary, given to petty spites
and silly contradictions. Such inconsistencies
as she evinces in the earlier portion of the book
are promptly forgiven, for they are consistently
My criticism must not imply a denial of
Helga Crane's authenticity nor even a refusal
to accept her as an excellent character of fiction ;
my criticism is for Helga's creator, who forgot
to indicate in some way that Helga Crane's
temperament was such as to impel her into com-
mitting unhuman acts. Helga, incidentally, is
the only flesh and blood in the book ; yet, being
thus wracked with major inconsistencies, she
may cause one to have reasonable doubt whether
one has ever met or will ever meet her kind.
If she were supposed to be a psychopath I should
accept her as at least authentic. But she is not.
No, I cannot accept her, despite her flesh and
blood and some genuinely human impulses.
Rudolph Fisher writes a light, half-humorous
novel in "The Walls of Jericho," and he creates
some men and women who are not only sincere
but who do things quite in accord with their
several characters and temperaments. One can
accept Linda and Jinx and Bubber and Slim
without injury to one's commonsense. "Home
to Harlem" is more freighted with propaganda
than either "The Walls of Jericho" or "Quick-
sand." Preachment against wrongs frequently
obscures the progress of the story's theme. I
am not here railing against propaganda either
in art or. as art. In "Quicksand" and "The
Walls of Jericho" propaganda is sensed but
sensed as being inherent in the treatment of
the work. To that extent, I believe, both Miss
Larsen and Mr. Fisher come nearer to real ar-
tistic accomplishment than Mr. McKay. Mr.
Fisher, being generally a better craftsman, ap-
proaches nearer that ideal than Miss Larsen.
Of the short story writers that have appeared
since the war, only a few are known to maga-
zines of general circulation. Rudolph Fisher
has published in the Atlantic Monthly several
times. "The City of Refuge," probably the best
story yet written about the black immigrant
fr n the South shortly after the armistice, was
reprinted in O'Brien's "Best Short Stories of
1925." Fisher's stories have appeared also in
McClure's magazine. Jean Toomer is seldom
thought of as a Negro writer, although his
stories in the past have dealt principally with
Negro themes. His attitude is so detached that
the story projects itself cameo-like without in-
trusion of the author's figure in the background.
Interest in the story is not stimulated by special
pleadings, but by its inherent power to attract
and to hold attention as a piece of fiction. Hav-
ing finished the tale, the reader finds himself
suddenly thinking about the unfortunates of
whom Toomer has dispassionately told.
Toomer belongs to that group of experi-
mentalists which, following the war, published
in the Little Review, Broom and Prairie. He is
not, blatantly, a race propagandist. Indeed, his
most recent work, short stories in the Dial and
in the Second American Caravan, is not about
Negroes at all. More than any other Negro
writer in America, he is internationally minded.
"Cane," a book of sketches, short stories, and
poems, is strongly racial, but Toomer 's treat-
ment of his subject is one of impersonal de-
Eric Waldron completes the circle of colored
writers whose short stories appear frequently
in well-known magazines. Objective like
Toomer's, Waldron's stories are concerned
chiefly with the West Indian Negro. They are
technically good, usually brief, and frequently
laden with the tang of tropic seas.
Dorothy West, John Matheus, Gertrude
Schalk, Zora Neale Hurston, Arthur Huff
Fauset, John P. Davis, and Cecil Blue emerged
into recognition through literary contests con-
ducted by Opportunity, the Urban League maga-
zine. Langston Hughes, already noted as a
poet, was introduced as a short story writer by
the Messenger, later the organ of the Brother-
hood of Sleeping Car Porters. Aubrey Bowser,
Roscoe Wright, and a few others who are not
so well known, are products of the Negro weekly
press. Each of these writers is quite capable,
some, naturally, more than others; yet none of
them has had a story published in a periodical
of general circulation.
The reason lies in the limited appeal of their
product. What they write is undoubtedly good,
measured by current standards of technique
and style, but it is too narrowly racial to interest
the mass of American fiction readers. These
writers are confined, therefore, to contributing
to such Negro publications as Opportunity, the
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
Crisis, and the weekly pictorial section of the
Afro-American press. This limitation does not,
however, deny them the attention of anthologists.
Fauset's "Symphonesque," published in Oppor-
tunity as winner of the first prize in the short
story contest of 1926, was republished both in
O'Brien's "Best Short Stories of 1926" and in
the "O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories
of 1926." Stories by Dorothy West and Ger-
trude Schalk have appeared for years among the
"tabloid" tales distributed by the Wheeler
Syndicate, Inc., to scores of daily and weekly
papers throughout the country. Moreover,
stories by Schalk, West, Hurston, Matheus,
Davis, and Blue have been listed, from time to
time, in the "rolls of honor" that are a part
of short-fiction anthologies. Occasional Negro
periodicals, issued by independent groups of
non-professional writers, are the Saturday Eve-
ning Quill, of Boston, Fire, and Harlem, of New
York, Black Opals, of Philadelphia, and the
Stylus, of Washington. Some of the fiction
in these publications is often noteworthy because
of its technical excellence as well as for its
fresh point of view.
The Illustrated Feature Section of the Negro
press, formerly edited by George S. Schuyler,
once managing editor of the Messenger and still
a frequent contributor to such reviews as the
American Mercury and the American Parade,
has sent out the following "Instructions for Con-
Every manuscript submitted must be
written in each-sentence-a-paragraph style.
Stories must be full of human interest.
Short, simple words. No attempt to parade
erudition to the bewilderment of the reader.
No colloquialisms such as "nigger," "dar-
key," "coon," etc. Plenty of dialogue, and
language that is realistic.
We will not accept any stories that are
depressing, saddening, or gloomy. Our
people have enough troubles without read-
ing about any. We want them to be inter-
ested, cheered, and buoyed up; comforted,
gladdened, and made to laugh.
Nothing that casts the least reflection on
contemporary moral or sex standards will
be allowed. Keep away from the erotic!
Contributions must be clean and whole-
Everything must be written in that in-
timate manner that wins the reader's con-
fidence at once and makes him or her feel
that what is written is being spoken exclu-
sively to that particular reader.
No attempt should be made to be
obviously artistic. Be artistic, of course,
but "put it over" on the reader so he or she
will be unaware of it.
Stories must be swiftly moving, gripping
the interest and sweeping on to a climax.
The heroine should always be beautiful and
desirable, sincere and virtuous. The hero
should be of the he-man type, but not stiff,
stereotyped, or vulgar. The villain should
obviously be a villain and of the deepest-
dyed variety: crafty, unscrupulous, suave,
and resourceful. Above all, however, these
characters must live and breathe, and be
just ordinary folks such as the reader has
met. The heroine should be of the brown-
All matter should deal exclusively with
Negro life. Nothing will be permitted that
is likely to engender ill feeling between
blacks and whites. The color problem is
bad enough without adding any fuel to the
Possibly it was reaction to the Octavus Roy
Cohen type of tale, on the one hand, and to the
Thomas Dixon type, on the other, that made
Negro fictionists, until recently, busy them-
selves with damning to perdition all skins that
could not be classified as brown or black. Every
story contained at least one white villain, and
he was rotten all over and right through the
middle. The hero was bronze or black, and
godly virtue oozed from his manly pores. Right,
of course, always triumphed, and black was al-
ways right. But now the situation is different,
as Mr. Schuyler's "Instructions for Contributors"
indicate. However, Mr. Schuyler, after all,
spoke only for the Illustrated Feature Section,
and the change I refer to was evident long be-
fore that weekly magazine was dreamed of.
(Mr. Schuyler, by the way, is no longer the
The change was first evident at about the
time Van Vechten published "Nigger Heaven."
Negro writers, sensing the trend of white pub-
lishers toward a favorable reception of the long-
ignored black, became rivals of the Caucasians
who were then getting rich "interpreting" Har-
lem and its underworld. Fisher "interpreted"
for the Atlantic and McClure's, and Eric Wal-
dron for one or two other periodicals. In the who calls himself a short-story writer can "inter-
meantime groups of colored scriveners, less
skilled at this particular kind of "interpretation,"
decided to turn their pens to other phases of
Negro life. But they were ignored by the very
magazines that gave ear to Fisher, Waldron,
Cohen, Cobb, and others like these. "Give us
Harlem or nothing," insisted the magazine edi-
tors. And although many strove mightily, fail-
ure stalked them. It seems that not every Negro
pret" Harlem to the satisfaction of those who are
willing to pay enormously for the right "interpre-
tation." The editor, not the author, is the judge
of which "interpretation" is the right one.
And perhaps that is why, "So far, this coun-
try has not produced one Negro capable of
presenting a sincere picture of himself or his
people." Except, I should add, in such places
as are hereinbefore pointed out.
I want to worship God,
And so I go to church. There is a church two blocks down
Between the baker's and the new hospital.
I enter and kneel down on the prayer mat to pray.
But no prayer comes. I am not good. I am a sinner.
I am alone in the House of God and cannot think of God.
It is so strange in here, and close and dead.
I will not stay any longer. I will not wait any longer for God.
I draw on my glove and rush out into the street.
There I I am free. Here is Beauty, cold, white, clean.
Soft snow wets my cheeks. I want to worship God.
Is not this devotion? Is not this worship?
I worship God's gift, Nature :
Do I not thus worship Him— the Giver?
I pass a beggar woman and empty my purse in her lap.
Her eyes grow bright. There is a sort of worship in her eyes—
"Beautiful gold — smooth, warm, beautiful."
She polishes the money with her breath. I leave her there
Worshipping my gift, gold, with no thought for me, the Giver.
The trees are like white holyroods, wind-riven,
As I turn and blindly make my way back to the church.
I want to worship God.
The sky is blue,
The clouds are white and heavy
The air is pungent, and
Winds are strong, in winter.
The hills are covered with ice,
The nights are tranquil,
The mornings shiver, in winter.
Grace Vera Postles.
J want to live.
Dark pitfalls all about me
Close their black depths where'er my wanderings lead;
My feet are guided by an unseen force
O'er paths I would avoid for strangely treacherous ways.
I want to see.
Stark drama all about me
Finds no respondent note within the chaos of my soul ;
My eyes are drawn by some magnetic power
To a mirage of weird ethereal pictures.
To My Grandmother
Past beauty on a withering stem
With hands like wilting petals
Folded in languid repose.
Today, vivacity and mischief
Are memories in your dimming eyes
Challenging the future.
Throughout those years to come,
I shall seek often
In the pregnant meadows of my soul
For renewed courage and unerring zeal;
The seedlings of your example.
Down a steep pathway
Past fettered shapes whose gnashing teeth
Flash feeble sparks of fire.
Yet, I do not fear to tread the way alone
Fleeing a world of ceaseless, aimless din;
My way is charted.
But mark the fate of yonder dove,
Who, with a mating call,
Plunges in dizzy ecstasy
To its doom.
The goat's milk is sweeter.
The white bellied frog
Forsakes the water and its tail for land.
The wild sow and her shoats
Make defloration of the forest fruits.
A roebuck leads a troop of fallow deer
To a fragrant field of clover.
Despite the marten,
The mole ejects her young,
Is anchoret again in snug seclusion.
Hermes rests beneath the cool shade of a date tree
His lips thirsty for an open gourd.
The bees are warm with honey . . .
1 saw a gem of gleaming red,
With pulsing, shimmering sheen.
This shall be mine, I proudly said,
Who wears this, is a queen.
With avid hand I clasped it tight,
Guarding it as I felt I must.
But, when I held it to the light,
Desire had crushed my gem to dust!
Alice E. Furlong.
Black men, like the bark of a tree,
Pale as day,
Brown boys, darker than earth's red clay,
Yellow as the moon —
And the throbbing pain
In a laughing jazz trio's tune . . .
Oh, earth has a savor of salt and wine.
Great God Jazz, be kind, be kind!
"Hello, is that you, Lee?
The Girl From Back Home
A One-Act Drama of Negro Life
By RALF M. COLEMAN
Henry "Jazz" Barrett Numbers "banker" and man about town
Della Harvey The girl
Dr. Lee Minor Also from "back home"
TIME : The present
SCENE: Barrett's flat, in Harlem
("Right" and "Left" refer to the actors' right and left.)
Living room, comfortably furnished. Victrola, table, center ; fiat
topped desk with telephone, papers, etc., up left side. Two doors
right ; upper, bath room, lower, bedroom. One door down left. Win-
dow center, back. As curtain rises Della is discovered, with negli-
gee thrown carelessly around her, hastily packing suitcase. She
glances ever so often at door, left, and at wrist watch. Packs last
few things, goes into bedroom down right and appears immediately
dressed for street. Sits at desk up left, writes note, addresses it,
places it in upright position on desk. Takes handbag and suitcase,
and with last look around, starts for exit down left. As she gets
center stage, she stops in horror as key grates in lock and the door
she is about to exit from slowly opens. Della looks around in confu-
sion, as if for a place to hide. "Jazz" Barrett enters. He is about 35,
tall, well dressed and good looking, but his face is hard and
cruel and betrays his selfish, conceited nature. There is an awk-
ward silence for a moment, during which they eye each other.
Jazz (quietly, as he advances to center).
Della (in confusion). Er — er — No.— (Catch-
ing herself.) I mean — Yes.
Jazz (as if he hadn't heard) — Beg pardon?
Della (more firmly). I said — yes.
Jazz (calmly). Taking French leave? (He
puts hat on table.)
Della (bursting out). No, dear — I — I was
going to run by the club and tell you. I'm just
running over to Newark for a few days. I called
up Margie and she's terribly sick— wants me to
come right over and look out for things. (Looks
searchingly at him.) Really, dear. (Setting down
suitcase and taking note from desk.) See— I
wrote you a note— but you won't need it now.
(Puts note in handbag and goes to Jazz and puts
arms around his neck.) How is it you're home
so early, dear? Thought you were going to Jer-
Jazz (looking straight into her eyes). I've
changed my plans— got to wait for a 'phone call.
(Slowly.) I didn't know Margie was even sick.
Della. I didn't, either, dear. But you know
we haven't seen her for days, so I just thought
I'd call. Lucky I did, poor kid. She's pretty sick.
Jazz (seemingly reassured). That's tough.
I'll drive over for you later on. Got a big deal
on tonight, and I've got to meet Slim Henders
at the Ebony Club in five minutes.
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
(Jazz looks at watch and goes to desk, picking
up a jew papers. Delia glances at her watch and
then watches Jazz for a moment.)
Della (earnestly). Listen, Jazz-boy. When
are we going to be married?
Jazz (coming down center, with half inter-
ested laugh). Married? Say, what the hell ! —
Is that thing eatin' you again ? You've got every-
thing that money kin buy. Ain't 'cher ? Clothes,
automobile, jewelry— and ain't Jazz Barrett
looking out for you? Ain't that enough? Mar-
ried? People don't bother about that in New
York. Forget it!
Della (hurt). It's been a— a— year, now,
Jazz, and I— I—
Jazz (pulling her roughly to him and kissing
her). There— there, kid. You know I'm crazy
'bout you— and that's a whole lot. Why, every
gal in New York envies you. When you pass
along the street in that swell roadster, they all
nudge each other and says, "There's Jazz Bar-
rett's gal— Ain't she the lucky dog ! " (Pats her).
You ain't got nuthin' to worry about, kid. I've
taken care of you for over a year— that's as
good as being married— ain't it? (Kisses her).
There. I'm goin' to run along. Might not get
over for you at Margies 'till late, but I'll be
there. (Taking hat.) If a call comes for me
tell 'em I'm over at the Ebony. (Puts on hat
and crosses to door down left.)
Della (running to him). Jazz dear — 'er —
won't it be too late for you to drive over for me ?
You'll be awfully tired, too.
Jazz (watching her). Oh, I don't mind.
Della. All right. (Kisses him.) Goodby.
Jazz (slowly). 'Er— goodby, kid.
(He looks at her a moment, then exits quickly.
Delia leans against door, thinking deeply. Sud-
denly seems to remember, looks at watch, takes
note from bag, places it upright on desk and exits
hurriedly, left, leaving handbag on table and
putting out lights. A moment later the door
opens and Jazz reenters. He snaps on lights,
goes into rooms, looking around. Coming out, he
sees note on desk.)
Jazz (reading note.) "Dear Jazz-boy: I can't
stand it any longer. I'm going far away from it
all. I've got to do it. With Milly Danvers and
all the other women— you won't miss me. Please
let me go, and wish me luck, as I do you with
all my heart. Goodby forever— Dell." (Bit-
terly.) Just what I thought— Damn her.
(Laughs.) There's a good joke on Jazz Barrett
—a woman throws him over. Never been heard
of before. I generally do all the throwing.
(More seriously.) She can't do that to me.
(Throws hat on table. Sees purse and his face
lights up as he takes it and starts to examine
contents. 'Phone rings.)
Jazz (at 'phone). Hello— hello. Yes, Jazz Bar-
rett speaking. Oh, hello, Spike. What's up?
Good! Forty cases. No, don't give him a cent
more. Any hits today? What! Let them try
and collect. Listen. Dell just gave me the air.
Can you imagine it!— Well off and didn't know
it. Sure. Say, but you know can't no one wom-
an hold me down. (Laughs.) How's Julia?
Tell her I'll see her tonight. She'll be glad to
hear the good news— so will Milly. What?
Sure, I was out with Milly the other night.
What about it? Oh, he is, is he? Ha— ha!
Milly's husband, Jim Danvers, looking for me
with a gun! Say, that's a hot one. She's some
kid, and with a husband like that, no wonder she
wants a real man once in a while. Sure, he
owes me two hundred bucks and needs more. I'll
give him another loan and he'll forget it. Money
talks, eh? Who, Della? Sure, I guess she's gone
for good. Hope so. I've been trying to give
her the air for a long time. Oh, I'm not worry-
ing. You know me. Well, I'm going over to the
Ebony. Say, they've put some new dicks on
the force, so keep your eye open. See you later,
Spike. So long. (Hangs up receiver and sits back,
looking at purse and envelope. Speaks bitterly.)
Only I'd like to have the chance to make up with
her and then throw her over. The dirty little
(Noise of steps heard outside. Jazz, taking
purse, walks quickly across room to door down
left, snapping out lights and standing behind door
so as to be unseen when it opens. Della enters
quickly, leaving door open. Light from hall
streams in. She looks around, breaths sigh of
relief, and goes to table, feeling for purse.)
Della (softly). Why, I'm sure— I must have
left it here. Oh, I haven't got a moment to lose !
(Jazz slowly closes the door, shutting off
light, and stands against it.)
Della (with scream). Oh!— Who are you?
Who is it?
Jazz (quietly snapping on lights). Are you
looking for something?
Della (trying to conceal her surprise). Why
—yes— Jazz— My, you frightened me ! Yes, I've
—I've lost my handbag.
Jazz (holding it out). This one?
Della (eagerly going to him). Why, yes,
dear. Why, where—
THE GIRL FROM BACK HOME
Jazz (throwing purse on desk and seizing her
with both hands, hisses). You dirty little quit-
ter I Thought you could double cross the Kid,
eh? After all I've done for you! (Sneeringly.)
Just going over to Margie's for a few days, and if
you hadn't forgot your purse, I'd never seen you
you again. (Seizing her by the throat.) Tryin'
to make a fool out of Jazz Barrett, eh ? I'll kill
you for this!
Della (choking). Please ! —Jazz, for— God's
—sake— don't !
Jazz (releasing her) No— No— I want to
know a few things first. (More quietly.) Who's
the bimbo you're running away with? Tom
Della (sobbing). No— no. Not Tom.
Jazz. Then who the hell is it ?
Della (to herself). I guess it's all off. I
wouldn't been happy nohow. It's all up—
Jazz (savagely). You're damn right it's all up,
and if you don't come clean (leaning toward
her) I'll break your neck !
Della (hopelessly). All right— all right.
(Sits in chair down center.)
Jazz (pulling one up beside her). Well, shoot!
Della (nervously). I don't know where to be-
gin, now you're listening. I've tried a thousand
times to tell you— and now you're listening, I
can't remember a word— I—
Jazz (cutting in). This hadn't better be no
framed up story.
Della. It's going to be the God's truth, Jazz.
(Pauses.) Every time I asked you to marry me
you laughed— just as if it was a joke. I was a
decent girl once, back home. Maybe you
don't believe me, but I was. And I had ideals
once. Wanted to be a wife— a real one— with a
home and kids— legitimate ones. See? (Looks
closely at him.) Oh, I know I don't deserve it
now,— cause— cause I ain't nothin now. But I
had planned things different, Jazz. When I
came here to Aunty from back home I was good
—I was— er— er
Jazz (roughly). Aw, you can't blame me for
starting you wrong—
Della. I know it wasn't you. Aunty died
and I just drifted into bad company. But I
wanted life — lights — gayety — fun ! (Sobs.)
Things had been so tough— so dark and still
back home, and I wanted to play enough to make
up for it— and forget. (Pleadingly.) But I—
but I didn't go the limit, Jazz. I— I— I stayed
good till— 'till I met you—
Jazz (hotly). What!
Della. Honest to God.
Jazz. That's a lie ! Why, you were Sam Con-
nor's gal before I took you away from him,
Della. Yes, I know, but—
Jazz. And Hip Brown's before that, and—
Della (with spirit). Yes, and a dozen oth-
ers' before him. (More quietly.) But I never
really fell for them, Jazz. That's why I kept
giving them the air.
Jazz. 'Aw, a lot of boloney.
Della. Oh, I wish it was— but it's the God's
Jazz (impatiently). Well, go on.
Della. When we first started together I was
as happy as I could be. I knew you were a big
sport— had plenty of good looks and money, and
that all the women were crazy about you. I
knew, too, that you weren't a one-woman man.
But you seemed to care so much for me that I
was foolish enough to believe that I could change
your ways. (More softly.) I hear all about your
escapades— affairs— Julia Harris, Wenda Davis,
even Margie, and Milly Danvers. I've been
afraid, too, that some day you'd get into a lot
of trouble with the men— Like Milly's husband,
Jim Danvers. He's a bad actor when he's liquored
up. But I'm not naturally jealous, and so long
as you did everything for me I ought to feel
pretty lucky. And it did flatter me to know you
didn't want me to know about them, and didn't
openly flaunt them in my face. But I felt, too,
that if you married me I'd have a right to say
something then. (Slower.) But I saw you didn't
have no intentions of marrying me— and I
couldn't help but worry. I'd been brought up
different, and I can't do like these New York
girls— and like it. (Softly.) Then, too, I— I
thought— suppose something should happen.
(Hides face in hands.) God, I'd rather die than
become the mother of a nameless child. (She
Jazz (uneasily). 'Aw— that ain't nothin'. Hap-
pens every day.
Della (with spirit). But it'll never happen
to me, Jazz. That's why I started thinking
about going away. (Dropping her voice.) And
then I— I met Lee.
Jazz. Lee? Lee Johnson?
Della. No, Lee Minor. You don't know
him. He was an old sweetheart of mine back
home. We grew up together, and all our folks
knew each other, and everybody in Clover
thought we were going to be married. Well, I
just up and went away— and didn't write back
or anything, and I was hoping he would forget
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
me. (Sadly.) And marry some one else. But speaking. Yes— yes— I know. I'm sorry, but
he didn't— and he came way up here to New I can't go with you. No— never. I know— I
York— looking for me. promised— But please —
Jazz (grunts disgustly). Humph! Jazz (cutting in). Aw, tell him to go to—
Della (continuing). He's a big doctor now— Della (raising hand). Sssh! (To 'phone.)
back home— and he found me the other night on Listen, Lee. I've changed my mind. I'm not
Lenox Avenue. I walked right into him— going back home with you. I can't. (Sob in
Jazz. Last Monday night, eh ? So that's voice.) Please, don't ask me why or try any more
where you were until after three! to see me. I'm sorry. Go back home and for-
Della. At first I tried to hide my identity, get me. Goodbye— and good luck. (Hangs up
but he knew me so well and seemed so glad to see receiver sharply.)
me, that I couldn't freeze him out. So he took Jazz (pleased) Atta baby! You're showing
me to Martin's for supper and we had a long some sense now. (Putting arms around her.)
talk. Want to go back home and starve to death with
Jazz (cynically). And to make a long story some hick doctor who don't know what it's all
short, you and him planned to run back to the about? Why, you'd die of lonliness, down
sticks together, eh? (Sneering.) How romantic! there behind the sun, for good old New York
Della (pleading). Oh, Jazz! I didn't know and Jazz Barrett. (Brightly.) Forget it, and
what to do. I— I do care a lot for you. I thought we'll go to Stumble Inn and celebrate,
for a long time I really loved you. (Pause.) Della. I tell you, dear. You go out and get
Maybe it's the life you represent— the fascination some eats— chop suey, ice cream and every-
and all that (Determinedly.) But I couldn't thing, and we'll celebrate here— just you and
stand for it any longer. (She bows her head.; me.
Jazz (snapping). Couldn't stand what? Jazz (putting on hat). That suits me for to-
Della. Not being married. (Earnestly.) I night. (Slyly.) And tomorrow I'll spring a
want to live decent, Jazz— like respectable peo- little surprise, eh?
pie. Have a home— husband— babies. Live Della (putting suitcase, hat, etc., in bed-
within the law. (Sobs.) Oh, I'm sick of this room, she comes out and bustles about). Now,
life. (Buries face in hands.) hurry, and I'll get things fixed.
Jazz (lying). Well — well, suppose I say I'll (Jazz watches her closely with sneer, but
marry you. when she looks up he smiles and exits left.
Della (hardly believing her ears). Really? I When door closes behind him Della goes to desk
don't know— but I think I'd be the happiest and looks thoughtfully at 'phone. Gives deep
woman in the world. sigh, gets up briskly, and starts victrola. She
Jazz (slyly). And you'll forget this bozo from goes into bedroom down right, leaving door
back home. open. Knock is heard at door, left. Della,
Della (jumping up— looking at watch). Oh, humming in bedroom, does not hear. Knock
I forgot. He's waiting for me— I must go and comes louder. Della comes out, stops victrola,
tell— and returns to bedroom. Knock comes much
Jazz (quickly). No you don't. Where is he? louder.)
I'll attend to him. (Takes hat.).. Della (at door arranging hair). Come in,
Della. No, no, dear. (Pause.) Wait, I'll get dear, the door's open. (Goes back into room.)
him on the 'phone. (Goes to desk.) (Door opens and Lee Minor enters. He is
Jazz (lighting cigarette). Aw right, go ahead around middle age and, in direct contrast to
and tell him it's all off and to catch the next Jazz, is conservative in dress and appearance.
train far Bam alone. — 'Cause you're going to He has a kindly, honest face — a typical "coun-
marry Jazz Barrett. (Under his breath.) Maybe, try gentleman!' He looks around, then hesi-
(Loudly.) And if he keeps hanging around New tantly advances to center stage.)
York, trying to see you, he's liable to go back in Della (from inside). Why, Jazz dear, you
a box. certainly made time. (Comes to door, sees Lee,
Della (at telephone). Bradhurst 2671. Yes. starts back in horror.) Why— Lee— you— here ?
Hello— waiting room, 125th street station? Will Lee (brightly). Why, what's the big idea,
you please page Dr. Lee Minor? Yes, Lee Dell? You didn't think you could shake me
Minor. He must be waiting there. Thanks, as easy as that, did you? After all these weary
(Looks at Jazz.) Hello, is that you, Lee? Delia months I've spent looking for you! I couldn't
THE GIRL FROM BACK HOME
go back home alone. (Seeing her dismay.)
Why, what on earth has changed you so?—
Della (in tense whisper). For God's sake,
Lee, how did you know where to find me?
Lee (laughing). Easy enough. I just called
back and asked Central the number of the
party that called me and the rest was easy.
Della (entreatingly). Lee, you shouldn't
have come. I asked you not to look for me
again. I— I can't have you here. Please-
please go at once!
Lee (bewildered). Come, Dell. You've got
to give me some reason. You didn't act like
this last time I saw you, and we arranged to
go back home together tonight. (Pleading.)
You'll never regret it, dear. You know I own
my own place— cozy little farm— and I'm as
good a farmer as a doctor. And then, too,
I'm the only doctor in Clover, so, you see, I'll
be able to take care of you right. You won't
have to worry about anything. (Softer.) All
the home folks will be tickled to death to see
you, Dell. Just think!
Della (hysterical). No— no, Lee! Please
don't tempt me any more or stay here a moment
longer. Go, for God's sake!
Lee (looking around and seeing desk and
man's things, puzzled). Why, I thought you
lived here all alone. (Looking at her closely.)
You aren't married, are you?
Della (confused). No — er (catching her-
self)—! mean— Yes. Yes, I am.
Lee (surprised). Why didn't you tell me?
(Pause.) And you were going to leave your
husband for me? (Sternly.) Then he can't be
treating you right!
Della (more confused). Yes— yes, he is—
Oh, I can't explain. He might come in any
moment. (Looks in terror toward door, left.)
Lee (desperately). I don't care— I know
you're not happy, and I won't go without you.
(Passionately.) I love you, Delia. Have al-
ways loved you. (Forcibly taking her in his
arms.) You promised to go back home with
me— and you're going!
(Door opens and Jazz enters. He has several
large paper bags in his hands. Upon seeing him,
Della shrinks away from Lee up stage between
them. Lee faces Jazz.)
Jazz (sarcastically, closing door). I've evi-
dently messed up a party.
Lee (politely). I beg pardon, sir. (He
looks at Della appealingly.)
Della (timidly). This is— Dr. Lee Minor,
and he— er—
Jazz (putting hat and the bags on table).
Oh, the horse doctor from Bam, eh?
Della (quickly to Lee). And this is— is my
husband Henry "Jazz" Barrett.
Jazz (in anger) . Like hell it is ! (Della hides
Lee (loudly). What?
Jazz (hotly). You heard me! I'm not her
husband or any other woman's. (Evil leer.)
Fact is, Mister Doctor, she's my—
Della (screaming) . No ! No !
Lee (advancing to Jazz). Careful, sir. I
love this girl, and I won't have you or anyone
else say a word against her.
Jazz (bitterly). Oh, is that so? Well, she's
changed a lot since you knew her, and when I
get through telling you what she is now, you'll —
Lee (loudly, with face close to Jazz). You're
not going to tell me anything, Big Boy. She's
the same girl to me she always was, and if she's
gone wrong, it's the fault of dirty, stinking
yellow dogs like you, who go about like ravag-
ing wolves corrupting and destroying the bodies
and souls of womankind.
Jazz (in astonishment). Well, I'll be
Lee (boldly). Get your things, Delia— we're
going back home!
(Della hesitates a moment, then starts for
bedroom, down right. The two men eye each
other face to face, ready to strike.)
Lee (loudly, fists clenched). Well, have you
(Jazz eyes him a moment, then slinks back-
ward, afraid. He goes to desk with evil look
and sits with one leg upon it.)
Jazz (lighting cigarette). You're welcome to
Lee (mockingly). Thanks.
(Della, with suitcase, etc., is ready to go. Lee
goes to door, with hat, holding door open.)
Della (mid stage, to Jazz). I'm glad I found
you out before it was too late. I don't believe
you ever intended to marry me.
Jazz (coldly). I wouldn't marry the best
woman on earth.
Della (going to door). And to think I was
such a fool.
Jazz ( sneeringly ) . Aw, blow! I got my
(In a rage Lee rushes for him.)
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
Lee. You— !
Della (holding Lee back). Come, Lee, he
isn't worth it.
(Lee continues to glare at Jazz as Della pulls
him toward door, and they exit left, closing
door. Jazz watches closed door with twisted
smile. He shrugs shoulders, saunters to chair
and takes telephone.)
Jazz (at 'phone). Morningside 37922. Hello!
Hello! That you, Milly? Jazz speaking. Got
good news— I'm free. Sure, she's gone for good.
I had to give her the air. What you doing
tonight? What! Afraid of your husband?
Say, I can handle Jim Danvers. He's just try-
ing to scare you. Sure. Better look out, he'll
shoot himself with that gun. He's hard up-
as usual— ain't he? I'll let him have another
loan and he'll forget it. Sure. Don't worry—
I'll see you tonight. Some place. O. K.
(He hangs up receiver and leans back with a
self-satisfied smile. Doorbell rings. He rises,
adjusts tie, brushes self off, and goes to door
down left. He opens it and his smile turns to
horror as he sees the man before him, his visitor
unseen by the audience.)
Jazz (gulping and trying to appear uncon-
cerned). Why— why, hello, Jim Danvers, Old
Top. (Dry laugh.) Come for another loan?
Sure thing. How much? (He reaches for back
pocket, but stops half way and raises both hands
above head, his face distorted with fear.
Whispers hoarsely.) Why— Jim, what's the
idea of the gat!— Be yourself! (Cowering in
fear.) I ain't foolin' with Milly. Honest to—
(Three metallic clicks of a silenced automatic
ring out in rapid succession. Jazz grasps his
chest and reels forward, closing and locking the
door. Gasping, he leans against it, trying to
straighten up. With great difficulty he staggers
to desk and sinks into chair. With last desperate
effort to reach telephone, he sprawls face for-
ward upon desk as CURTAIN slowly descends.)
Emblem that one heart has reached the ending
Of Life's journey, perilous and steep.
Symbol that a victor lies here, spending
These last hours in deep, majestic sleep.
How can this be called a badge of sorrow ?
Who will weep, when burdens are laid down?
Rather say, "A king goes forth tomorrow
Who has proved his right to wear the crown."
Alice E. Furlong.
A perfect crimson rose unfolds for me;
My starving heart with ecstacy is torn;
Eager, I reach to pluck it from Life's tree—
My bleeding fingers grasp a piercing thorn.
Alice E. Furlong.
By WARING CUNEY
I walk nude along a lonely path
And oh, the burn of winds upon my body I
Love was a garment I wore
Before the hands of Fate
Cruelly stripped me naked.
Now without the warmth
Of a woman's love,
I walk nude along my path.
Oh, the burn of winds upon my body!
Oh, the cry of winds in my lorn heart!
On With the Dirge
Play, O jazz band!
The dance-girl is dead.
(If any one asks for her
Tell him softly
That she has gone) . . .
play, jazz band!
Play a gay dirge,
For a dead dance-girl.
Play a Blues for Louise
O jazz band,
Play a blues for Louise tonight-
Play a moanin' sob bin' song
For a good gal
Whose man done her wrong.
play a blues for Louise tonight.
She packed her trunk
An' left dis town-
Said she was Chicago boun'.
Play a heart-broken song
For a po' heart-broken gal.
Play a blues for her.
De ole wheels turn
An' regret runs through her mind
About a man who was unkind.
O play a song of pain
For a heart-sick gal
On a fast, fast train.
O play a blues for Louise tonight.
Wild exotic music fills the air,
A jazz band plays a loud free prayer.
Ill | '
Beat your drum, drummer boy!
Beat in the slow dawn of day.
This is an hour of joy,
When restless weary souls pray!
Mad symphonic rhythm fills the air,
Ten. jazz men bow their heads in prayer.
By FLORENCE MARION HARMON
ROWTHER was angry, beastly angry.
Hadn't his landlady assured him that no
one occupied the top floor in Carleton
Chambers? Coming out of his studio
he had encountered a girl, decidedly
young and pretty. He had caught a fleeting
glimpse of a piquant face and a bobbed auburn
head. She knew how to bring out her good
points, for she wore a vivid green linen smock.
Crowther accorded her a rude stare, then he
stalked back into his studio and slammed the
door. By way of further expressing his exaspera-
tion, he gave the chair by his door a kick that
sent it clattering to the floor. He hoped that
the woman in the studio next to his would find
him too noisy and move out. He would move
out himself if he hadn't paid a carpenter a good
sum to build a window in the roof to admit more
light. He had chosen this particular house be-
cause it was out of the usual area for a studio,
and because he could work more freely from
interruption. Time meant everything to Crow-
ther. It meant steadily climbing the ladder of
success, for he had recently received several im-
Women he had definitely put out of the pic-
ture. When he needed them he would paint
Under the stimulus of his angry feelings
Crowther worked viciously for a while. He was
doing an expensive bon voyage box for a well-
known candy firm. He had intended to go to
the museum and draw a pattern of lace to line
the cover. Tomorrow would do for that.
Pleased with himself for the amount of work
he had turned out, he went to bed at midnight
and slept soundly until eight. When he awoke, the
delicious aroma of coffee and waffles greeted his
nostrils. He sniffed the air like a dog keen for
a scent. Crowther had forgotten the existence
of the green-smock girl until now. He wished
he had some of her breakfast. After a cold
bath, he started to go out, but as he opened
the door the girl in the green smock deliberately
turned her back to him while she placed some-
thing to cool on the window ledge on the back
stairway. Crowther was ready to go down the
front stairs. He didn't hurry, however, but
rather enjoyed the fact that he was making the
girl wait. He noticed the shoes she had on were
green and that she certainly had well-turned
ankles and pretty feet. Perhaps she could be
hired to pose for his shoe ads. He went down-
The girl in the green smock watched his tall
figure as he strode arrogantly down the street.
Her mental reservation was that John Crowther
was a grouch. She envied him the new window,
for she realized that the light in her studio was
none too good. For a long time nothing was
heard on the top floor but the carpenters finish-
ing Crowther 's window.
At five the girl in the green smock began to
cook her dinner. Crowther was annoyed as the
odor of food permeated the top of the house. It
was too upsetting, when one had important work
to finish. . . . He hadn't looked at his mail since
morning. He scanned the envelopes. One was
from a nationally known firm whose patronage
spelled prestige with a capital. A letter for Miss
Janet Murray. . . .
Now, who was Janet Murray? She must be
the girl in the next studio. Crowther realized
that he couldn't keep her mail, so he would have
to speak to her. He smoothed his hair and ad-
justed his tie, then he went and knocked at
her door which was slightly ajar.
She greeted him with a dimpled smile, while
her eyes plainly asked what he wanted. "Er— I
wonder if this happens to be your mail? It got
in with mine." Miss Janet Murray thanked
him and murmured the usual platitudes about
the weather. Crowther was gracious enough
to smile back. He was especially good looking
when he smiled.
Back in his studio he thought she might be
quite interesting; nevertheless, he decided not
to be too neighborly.
About eight he sat down to finish the candy
box, then he remembered the lace pattern for
"Hang it ail, why didn't I think of it? This
box must be finished tonight! Wonder if the
smock girl has some lace."
This time it was an apologetic Crowther who
knocked on Janet Murray's door.
After a brief search she found some lace-
quite a lot of it. Then she looked into a camou-
A STUDY IN COLOR
flaged trunk and brought up a handkerchief, a
veritable aristocrat of lace handkerchiefs. With
a witching smile she told him it had once be-
longed to the Duchess of Albermarle.
Crowther chuckled delightedly, for he knew
it would add just the touch his box needed. Then
he was grave again. "I must not take this,"
he said, "for you will use it yourself some day,
She assured him that when she got a commis-
sion to warrant using it the pattern would
likely be forgotten.
It ended by Crowther's taking the handker-
chief and inviting the girl to have dinner with
him the next evening.
They dined at a downtown restaurant.
Crowther noticed, as he helped her remove her
coat, how charming she looked in filmy gray.
She was not too sophisticated to enjoy a quiet
meal, so they had a delightful time.
In succeeding days Crowther thought fre-
quently of the girl, much to his chagrin. He de-
cided that the best way to forget her was to apply
himself assiduously to his work. Now it was
nearly a week since they had spoken, and he
was willing to admit that he missed her tre-
mendously. So he decided to call that night, re-
turn the handkerchief, and present the girl with
his prize cover and a box of candy. He won-
dered whether she was at home. He closed his
door softly and went out into the hall.
The door of her studio was partly open and
he could see a tall, dark young man sprawled in
her most comfortable chair.
In the centre of the room Janet was posing
in a ravishing evening gown of green velvet, at
the same time flirting a huge green feather fan.
She made an adorable picture.
Crowther was immediately jealous. Why
hadn't she told him that she was engaged? He
had been a fool to even think of her at all. Of
course the lout was taking her out for the eve-
Crowther crept back to his studio, lighted his
pipe, and smoked moodily over a dying log fire.
He kept to his resolution and did not encounter
the girl for a number of days. Then he remem-
bered he hadn't returned the handkerchief.
All day long it had rained, but now it poured.
Rain beat so incessant a tattoo on Crowther's
roof window that his loneliness became unbear-
able. He hurried into the hall, and without
waiting to think, he knocked on his neighbor's
He noticed traces of tears on her face.
"Miss Murray— Janet, are you ill?" he asked
She smiled shamefacedly.
"No, not ill, just plain homesick. It has been
such a blue, lonesome day," she wailed, starting
to cry again.
She sniffled, and smiled as he made a motion
"My brother came to visit me from the
West, so I've had my first real spell of homesick-
ness since I came to New York."
Crowther mentally kicked himself down stairs.
Then in one big rush of words, he told her that
he loved her, how he had seen her brother, and
how miserably jealous he was.
"Janet," he said gleefully, "will you go out to
dinner with me tomorrow evening and wear that
adorable green frock?"
"Oh, let's not think of tomorrow," she whis-
pered. "I'm so happy now."
A Study in Color
A rose is sweetest near decay,
And sweeter then is nectar made;
The sunset is day's best array
When red and blue in purple jade.
A woman, brown like autumn leaves,
A blend of comely nature's best ;
With her God's beauty longest cleaves,
But sweetest as time mounts the crest.
Earl Lawson Sydnor.
By A. ALOYSIUS GREENE
O God, with all my heart I ask of Thee
That Thou wouldst give the wondrous gift to me,
To raise a voice that has not yet grown strong
Of singing with lips yet unused to song,
To give my fingers skill to strike a lyre,
Whose very strings would vibrate living fire.
Aye, if my songs can make some load the lighter,
Or if my pen can make some life the brighter,
And if my lyre though crudely tuned can ring,
And ringing, to some heart a rapture bring,—
It shall not matter what my station be.
If I can help some sightless one to see,
The wondrous beauty that his God has given
To wandering earthlings, ere they come to
If by some word I catch a song bird's note,
Or send anew the rosebud's breath afloat ;
If I can paint a picture of a tree
As a cathedral consecrate to Thee;
If I can make my fellow see the rain
As heaven-sent, to soothe his earthly pain, —
/ shall not care what bitter tears I shed,
What sunless days, what nights I spend in dread.
For I shall know that Thou hast heard my
That I may breathe my songs into the air.
All this, dear God, I ask of Thee that I
May make some life less dreary, ere I die.
To a Charwoman
Deep black night descends upon
The earth. Most folks seek
Their hearths ; but you trudge
Your way down to the city's
Heart. Tall gray buildings
Silhouetted dark against the
Sky. Into one of these you go.
And up the stairs. (The lift-boy,
Too, is home.) Near, always
Near the top of this great
Tier of rooms.
There you take your broom,
And mop, and pail,
And slowly, like some
Engine thing, you raise
The dust and clear the floors.
Then, standing near a window,
You gaze upon the city :
Myriad lights and flashing signs.
Somewhere down there is
A girl in cloth of gold and
Finest silk — a little
Moth, who never sallies forth 'til
Darkness falls and lights are lit:
A little thing so very soft and frail.
You draw your hand across
Your eyes, to wipe away a tear
(Or bit of dust I).
As oft before, you note
These hands of yours.
Knobby, hard, red hands,
Bulging, shapeless hips,
Clubby ankles clothed in
And somewhere down
Among the city's lights,
A dainty girl laughs and dances—
A girl in cloth of gold and silk.
At last your work is done.
You drag your toil-worn
Body homeward, as pale-
Faced boys and painted girls
Leave the halls oj revelry.
A great gray chariot,
Roaring steel and glass,
Whirs down the street
As you attempt to cross.
You stumble back
Out of its faulty course
And glimpse a dainty thing
In cloth of gold and silk.
Then someone cries,
"Look out, charwoman!"
A girl laughs— you smile.
From you, poor cotton caterpillar,
Sprang a butterfly in cloth of
Gold, and silk.
To a Girl Sleeping
Upon a rock, whose lip o'erhung the pool,
A jungle maiden stood with sylph-like grace.
A thousand nights seemed harbored in her hair,
A golden sun had oft' caressed her face.
Her head was high to kiss the playful breeze,
Her round breasts moved in measured rise and fall,
Her form a symphony of lines and curve,
With softest olive covering over all.
Then, like a bow, her supple form grew taut,
And arrow-like, went winging through the air,
To cleave the droivsy, silver-surfaced pool,
Which held her close, and toyed with her hair.
Again she stood upon the jutting rock,
As fair a Nereid as those of old,
With droplets sparkling on her rich brown skin,
Like random diamonds sprinkled over gold.
I can't say what it was that led me by
Your door, or caused my foot to pause upon the stair,
Or what it was that made me turn my eye
And gaze at you, serenely sleeping there.
I saw the merest semblance of a smile,
A smile symbolic of angelic rest ;
One long black braid, that tried to hide, the while,
The roundness of a dimpled, soft, bare breast.
Then suddenly I took the stairs in flight,
For fear I'd desecrate you with my eyes.
I felt, I'm sure, as any sinner might,
Who, in passing, stole a glimpse of Paradise.
By EUGENE GORDON
|Y name, professor," apologetically de-
claimed the bald, nose - spectacled,
goateed black man, rising in the rear of
the room, "is Hezekiah Thompson. You
1 have probably heard of me: I'm profes-
sor of history at the Star of Zion Baptist College,
in Macon . . . Macon's in Georgia." He paused,
and there was a noticeable twitching of the left
side of his neck and face. Meeting only with
cold silence, he went on defensively : "I came up
here to Boston University just to take this won-
derful course of lectures in Egyptian and Ethi-
opian History at the Summer Session. I notice
every day you ask if anybody'd like to make a
comment or ask a question on your lecture, and
nobody ever says anything. Today I'd like to
ask a question."
The class of sixty white graduate students
turned and stared as the speaker paused a second
time. Then they turned and looked at the
wizened, grayish, sharp-featured Professor of
Egyptian and Ethiopian History. He sat behind
a small table at the front of the room, frowning,
and frequently glancing at the clock above the
door on his left.
"Well ?" he prompted bluntly.
The man from the Star of Zion smiled. "I'd
like to make a brief statement first," he said,
addressing the students rather than the lecturer.
Self-consciously he fingered his black-and-white
striped tie; felt of the flaring wings of his high
collar ; stroked the wide black ribbon which fes-
tooned gracefully from the glasses on his aqui-
line nose. He went on, the muscles of his neck
and face twitching spasmodically: "My state-
ment is this : The white professors of history, as
well as the white so-called historians, are in
league to ignore the black man's contribution to
civilization. For instance, all our lives we've
been taught that Ethiopians were just ordinary
Negroes; why, the Bible itself says so. But as
soon as it is found out that the Ethiopians were
a people of great importance—"
The professor rose and picked up his green
cloth bag. "Mr. Thompson, the 'class period
is ended," he said shortly. "I'm sorry. You'll—"
"So am I, professor, but—"
The professor, his face red with anger, struck
his palm upon the table. "That's enough from
you, sir! If you care to stay and see me after
the others have been dismissed, all right; but I
refuse to listen to you further— under the circum-
stances." He took out his watch, glanced at it,
replaced it, then made a gesture of dismissal to
"That's all," he said.
Immediately the room was abuzz with voices.
The professor stood tapping the table nervously
with his knuckles as the men and women passed
out; as some of them lingered, sitting on the
broad arms of their chairs; as they whispered
excitedly behind their hands, staring from the
angry white face of the professor to the twitching
face of the black man. Thompson now sat for-
ward, alertly, on the edge of his chair, his eyes
Presumably convinced that many had no in-
tention of quitting the room, the professor per-
emptorily ordered them to leave.
"Our friend evidently has some deep-seated
grievance against white folk in general and
against me in particular," he said, with forced
When the last had departed, closing the door
after them, the professor said abruptly: "Now,
then, Mr. Thompson, what is your trouble?"
The black man picked up his rusty brief case
and his straw hat and moved to the front of the
room. Laying his belongings in a chair beside
him, he sat down directly in front of the pro-
fessor and crossed his long, thin legs. His lower
lip was quivering now, and his head was making
short, spasmodic jerks. His eyes were glitter-
The professor backed round until the table
stood squarely between them; glanced toward
the door, gripping the edge of the table firmly as
if to give his nerves stability.
"Well," he said impatiently, "begin."
"Yes, sir. I will. I wish you'd sit down,
though ; I'd feel more at ease. You make me feel
like yelling when you stand there like that." The
man laughed mirthlessly ; stared round the room.
"As you can see for yourself, I'm somewhat nerv-
ous, professor. It doesn't take much to get me
all wrought up. What are you looking at me like
that for? Do you think I'm crazy?" He seemed
about to rise, but the professor, laughing as if to
conceal a fear, signalled him to remain as he was. something about fine old shade trees that just
He himself sat down, somewhat off from the . . . that just. . . ." He bent his head and
table. He glanced at the clock, at the door, then tapped it with his knuckles. "Say, professor,"
looked at the man before him. he cried, snapping his fingers, "ever read Joyce
"Crazy? Nonsense! Why should I think Kilmer's poem about trees ? It goes-"
that? . . . You are nervous, though, are you The professor's face was a white, taut mask,
not?" moistened at the forehead with clammy sweat.
"I am, professor. Very. Sometimes I'm fright- In one hand he clutched his old Panama hat, and
ened at myself. I . . ." His deep-set black eyes in the other his bag. He glanced at the door,
seemed alternately to dilate and contract. They "I annoy you, I see. I tire you with my ran-
wandered round the room. "I'm very much af- dom chatter." The man from Macon leaned for-
fected that way when anybody crosses me. When ward and shook a long black finger at the pro-
I get excited or lose my temper I—" fessor. "If you tried to leave me alone here,
"We'll not discuss any unpleasant subjects, Mr. something would happen to you. . . . But I
Thompson. . . . You say you are a professor of ramble, and I am sorry. To the point. Revenons
history?" a nos moutonst So, now. Take this recent dis-
"Yes, sir. Well, no. That is, I was. It's covery of Tutankhamen's tomb. He was a black
rather amusing: you'll laugh. My college sent man until it was found he had carried remnants
me up here— that is, the trustees told me I ought of a dazzling civilization into his tomb. Then he
to come— to take this course. But yesterday—" became a white man. Even Ethiopians, that
He laughed, picked up his brief case from the we've always been taught were pure African
chair beside him, fumbled in it, and withdrew a Negroes, are 'white folks' now. Can you beat it ?
letter. "Yesterday I got this." He half rose and as the boys say. In other words, everything
passed the envelope across the table. "Just read that's any good is white. Now, isn't that so,
that, will you, professor?" professor?"
The professor drew out the folded typewritten The professor had been watching and listening
sheet, opened it, and read. He replaced it in the with evident interest. He shook his head. "I
envelope and passed it back without comment. shouldn't say so. You are obviously laboring
"Don't you think that's rather queer, profes- under a very strange hallucination. You . . ."
sor?" demanded the black man. He pursed his He halted himself as if suddenly reminded that
rather thin lips and glared round the room. His he had said too much ; peered apprehensively at
neck and face began to twitch. He said loudly : the man before him.
"Well, / do, whether you think so or not. Get me But the listener was calm now. The twitching
up here, then send me a request for my resigna- was scarcely visible, and the eyes were no longer
tion." He frowned and stared at the floor. dilated. He appeared to be the professor of his-
The professor began tentatively : "Then you're tory whose title he had but recently held,
interested in Egyptian and Ethiopian history. The lecturer smiled, rose, and placed his old
How did your interest in this subject come to be Panama on his head,
aroused?" "I'm glad to have been of service to you, Mr.
Thompson stared, puckering his forehead ; bent Thompson," he said, moving toward the door
his head and tapped it with his knuckles. He rather hurriedly. He stopped. "If ever I can—"
looked up quickly. "But you're not leaving yet, sir," cried the
"How? I'll tell you how, professor. Why is it black man, jumping up. "Why, you haven't an-
that colored people— Negroes, if you please— are swered my question." He picked up the brief
being denied credit for their contribution to case and fumbled in it, pulling out a book. The
civilization? Take—" professor, half way to the door, stood looking at
"But they're not, are they? Don't you think him, his forehead knotted in a frown, his thin
your premise is unsound?" pinkish lips opening and closing as though tasting
"No, I don't. My premise is perfectly sound something unpalatable.
. . . perfectly sound. As sound as I am." He "Here . . ." The man turned the pages, mois-
smiled across the table. "Not very sound, then, tening his thumb on his tongue. "Here, professor.
I suppose you say. But never mind that. They'll Here is a passage in a book you wrote yourself,
never get me inside a strait-jacket again. . . . The 'The Glory of Cheops.' On page 195 you say
grass was green round there. Plenty of fine old this ; listen, professor, to what you say yourself,
shade trees. Do you know, professor, there's You say:
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
" 'The inhabitants of both Abyssinia and Ethi- Thompson stared after him, his neck and face
opia were mixed races. In Abyssinia, southern twitching, his eyes dilated and glittering. Then
Semites, immigrants from the Arabian Yemen on he ran forward very swiftly, and just as the old
the other side of the Red Sea, were the dominant man reached the brink of the staircase well,
race ; and in Ethiopia Hamitic Lybyans from the shoved him. The body shot out, shrieking,
western desert formed the ruling class, while the sprawling, whirling, descending, the green bag
mass of the people were probably racially dropping away from it. The bag landed far
Hamites if not actually of Lybyan origin. The below with a smart thud. A moment later there
whole region involved was inhabited in antiquity, came the sound of a heavier, more compact object
as it is today, by dark-colored races in which striking the hardwood floor. There followed no
brown prevails. But they are not,' you say here, other sound, save that of the ancient elevator
professor, 'they are not, and were not, African creaking on its cables in the nearby shaft.
negroes, although many individuals in the same Thompson returned to the room, put on his
region show a mixture of black blood many of j^ and picked up his bdef case He went Qut
them being blacks of the slave class. and rang for the elevator> He seemed s i ng ularly
He closed the book with a vicious snap, and, composed and detached. His eyes were but
narrowing his eyes, leaned forward and thrust a slightly brighter than normally, and even had the
quivering finger under the professor's nose. He age d elevator man not been near-sighted, he
asked angrily : "Why do you all delight so in li- could not have detected the veriest tremor of
belling a whole race, professor?" nervousness in his passenger. But the operator
The professor made a gesture of weariness, paid no heed, and as soon as Thompson had
"What need is there of my telling you that you stepped out, the elevator man lowered the car to
are wrong? You don't seem to be able to con- the basement.
centrate on anything save the one delusion of Thompson detoured widely round the right of
your grievance. Let us have done with this non- the stairs. The man had fallen on the left. At
sense," he said sharply. "If you doubt that these the front door he looked back. He saw pro-
people were not Negroes, go to the art museum— trading from the shadow beneath the stairs the
ever been there?" g ra y head of the professor on the floor.
"I've spent a part of every day, recently, in Qnce in the gtreet he alter n a tely walked and
the Egyptian and Ethiopian room ran He ran onl when no one was near him
Well, I am curator of that department. I Looki continuous i y over his shoulder, he mut-
uant you to go there and look at the skulls of tered . « Th m t me t what chance has a
those mummies in the glass cases. Many of them poor beast f a black man, anyway? They'll
have become unwrapped. Examine the skulls track me down as sure as fate> „
closely. If you see any resemblance between _, . . .... . ,
them and a Negroid skull, I'll be glad to make a Pe / sons meetin f h ™ strai , ned their ears * P 1C *
note of your discovery when I revise my book. U P, fragments of his soliloquy ; stopped and
By the way," he said, as if with sudden inspira- ^ked after him. When he noticed this he
tion, "here's something you might do. Have you sllen 1 ce J d himself > inc [ eased *» P ace , untl * he
seen that great nineteen-ton granite sarcophagus reached a corner ' then turned swlft1 ^ from
—the one with the lid back against the wall?" view.
The man stared at him, his neck and face be- when h e arrived at the art museum there was
ginning to twitch, his eyes to dilate and glitter. an hour until closing time. He mounted the flight
The professor backed toward the door ; the black of white marble stairs, turned to the left down a
man followed. l° n g vaulted corridor with a series of doors open-
The professor made an arresting gesture. "Wait ' m S int <> each side of it, and came at length to the
a moment. I want you to go to the art museum entrance of the Egyptian-Ethiopian department,
—tell them I sent you, if you wish. Tell them Jt was built to represent an ancient Egyptian
Dr. Niles sent you to do a little research work tQ mb, and had the appearance of being carved
for him. Go to the Egyptian-Ethiopian room and into tne solid rock of a mountain. Beside the
explore that biggest granite sarcophagus. Get door > in a chair tilted back against the wall, there
down inside of it, and later report your findings sat a uniformed guard, asleep, his cap pulled over
to me." his eyes.
The smile about his lips as he turned away Thompson walked in and looked about. He
seemed more grim than salutary. was like a man standing alone in the center of a.
musty tomb. Through a crevice of a window, Thompson's neck and face began to twitch and
high up, a yellowish blade of daylight cut the his glinting eyes to seek the dimensions of every
eternal gloom. Other light came dimly from corner. He looked upward and, with a quick
concealed bulbs round the border of the low and gasp, grabbed his brief case. Then, clutching it
rugged ceiling. The walls bore protuberances in his fingers, he seized the broad ledge of the
of glass shelves weighted with objects from the sarcophagus and drew himself up its seven-foot
country of the Nile : statuettes, fragments of ala- wall. Throwing his leg over, he scrambled down,
baster vessels inscribed with the names of for- as into a pit.
gotten dynasties, and samples of pottery from the The lid was quivering at the disturbance. It
burnt rooms of the western Defufa ; mud sealed had left the wall and stood like a malignant
impressions from the same source, brass bowls, thing of reason, pondering whether to seal the
glass jars and decorated pottery from the Me- captive in. The man was now struggling madly
roitic cemetery ; scarabs and golden crocodiles up the steep smooth side, scuffing it impotently
from the Great Cemetery of the Hyksos Period ; w j t h the toes of his shoes, trying to get out. The
busts of black granite of a King of the Twelfth nd veered. It smothered shrieks in a muffled
Dynasty, and so on, interminably. roar of thunder. A statuette toppled, shattering
"No wonder they want to claim the Egyptians itself on the flagstones. Mummies two and three
and Ethiopians for the white race," he muttered, thousand years old shivered in glass cases,
"when you look at all these things." He had been Echoes spent themselves in the vault-like
here countless times before, and on each occasion chamber,
he had made the self-same observation. Reverberations died in distant corridors ; then
Leaning against the walls, underneath the silence, save for the five o'clock gong,
shelves, were a dozen mummy cases in cubic Without, the guard's chair had come down
figurings and fantastic coloring; mummies of men again with a clack. The man rubbed his sleepy
and women dead two and three thousand years, eyes as he stood in the doorway. In the vault-
in glass cases. Some of the wrappings had fallen like room beyond, a yellow blade of sunlight cut
off, exposing powdering bones. The man bent" the thickening gloom. A thin cloud of dust par-
close over these and studied the shapes of the tides danced in it. Corners were already dark,
skulls. Objects in corners against the walls were already
There were a few wooden sarcophagi, but these indistinguishable. ... Ah ! The sarcophagus lid
were empty. Against the wall in a corner stood a was down. So that was the cause of the big
great granite sarcophagus weighing, with its up- noise, was it ?
turned lid, nineteen tons. A small card with this The guard stretched, yawning,
information printed on it hung from the wall. "All out ! " he called ; simply a routine detail.
About this monster trunk-like casket there "All out!"
seemed to lurk centuries of shadows. Thompson When the guard got downstairs the director
stooped and examined the figures in relief on the was locking the office door. The guard said :
surface of the granite hulk. There was pictured "Mr. Hawley, did you locate the superinten-
here a procession of slender Negroid figures, dent? George came round to the Egyptian de-
some with staffs in their hands, and others with partment looking for him, but — "
what resembled pails and bags and tools. Then "Yes, we found him." The director slipped his
came figures of jackals, serpents, and hawks, key into his pocket, set his straw hat at a more
There were others which he could not identify, jaunty angle, twirled his cane, and started toward
But he had no doubt that these figures repre- the street. "He has just left."
sented Negro men. He ran his finger over them The guard said suddenly: "Oh, by the way,
and smiled. Mr. Hawley." The director paused, half turning.
There was a sound of footsteps on the flag- "That big sarcophagus lid fell just now. It—"
stones of the corridor. Thompson dropped to his "Oh, did it? Well, I'm not surprised. Dr.
knees at the end of the nineteen-ton sarcophagus. Niles warned me of it yesterday. Said the slight-
The legs of the guard's chair clicked as they est vibration would cause it to fall. So I intended
dropped to the floor, and someone was talking to to have it lowered, anyway . . . when we got
him— an indeterminate rumble of men's voices round to it. Don't have to bother now, though,
that conveyed no meaning. Then-one of the men do we? . . . Good night."
said loudly: "But I would swear I saw him come He went on into the expanse of the evening,
this way! They said he did. They said . . ." twirling his cane.
The Cosmic Voice
By GEORGE REGINALD MARGETSON
/ am the cosmic, vibrant force,
I am the never jailing Source
Of mind and mystery.
I am the ocean and the wave,
The vast and mighty sea;
I am the restless winds that rave
Round earth's broad canopy.
I am the mountain and the vale,
The swiftly rushing stream;
I am the lightning and the gale,
The calm, the blissful dream.
I am the sun, the stars, the moon,
The darkness and the light;
1 am the tropic breath of June,
The soul of Arctic night.
I am the toads, the rocks, the trees,
The wee blind worms that crawl;
I am the birds' wild rhapsodies ;
The power that governs all.
I am the sweet scent of the rose,
The wormwood's bitter gall;
The silent prayer at evening's close,
The softening dews that fall.
I am the cyclone and the flood,
The hope-song of the dead;
I am the life, the virgin blood,
And all that's sung or said.
1 am the full-voiced symphonies,
The music of the Spheres;
The pulsing, haunting melodies
That dry the world's sad tears.
THE COSMIC VOICE
/ am the Christ within, without,
The hand of destiny;
The tumult and the thundershout
Of all humanity.
I am the billion souls that think,
In life's mad whirlpool thrown;
I am the tie that binds — the link
'Twixt earth and worlds unknown.
I am Supreme Intelligence,
Sleepless, untiring diligence,
On which earth's systems draw.
I am the Oracle Divine,
Finite and infinite;
I am the myriad gems that shine
/ am the unchallengeable Being
That science fails to trace;
I am the unseen, but the seeing
Of endless time and space.
I am the atoms of the air,
The floating, mystic screen;
I am a Spirit everywhere,
Shall be and e'er have been.
I am the heavens and the earth,
All forms— above, below;
I am the One and only Birth
And all there is to know.
I am that free high-winging host
Shorn of the earthly clod;
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
The known and unknown God.
One- Act Play of Negro Life
By ALVIRA HAZZARD
Bee( Twelve-Year-Old Twins
Mrs. Lee Their mother
Frances Their sister
Edna A friend
The scene is a comfortable living room. There is a window, right,
and an entrance from the front door and the rest of the house at the
left. The arrangement of the furniture is optional. There should
be a reading table in the room. Joe and Bee are discovered at op-
posite ends of the table, studying.
Joe (looking up). What's the good of study- (They come forward. Joe is pleasant and
mg, Bee. Let's quit. teasing, but Bee is getting cross. She cannot get
Bee (looking around cautiously). You know away.)
what mother said. Bee (kicking). MOTHER! Joe's hurting me!
Joe (in whisper). She wouldn't know. (Mrs. Lee enters.)
Bee. But you know what Miss Perry said Mrs. Lee. Joe, what are you doing to your
about your conscience! sister?
Joe. When? Joe (letting go). No thin'.
Bee. Oh, you were there. She says that a lit- Bee. He hurt my wrist. (She rubs it.)
tie voice inside worries us most awful if we do Joe (quickly). She slapped me.
something wrong, whether anyone knows it or Bee. You started it.
not. Joe. I didn't.
Joe. How does she know? Mrs. Lee. (firmly). Stop it! (They eye her,
Bee. Don't be a big silly ! She's smart, like and are silent.) Back to your books, both of you.
Frances. Mother says that Francie'll be a Bee. But mother . . .
teacher some day, just like Miss Perry. Mrs. Lee. Not another word. Frances is com-
Joe (chin in hands). Miss Perry's white. ing tomorrow night, and you won't want to study
Bee. All the same, Francie's just as smart. then.
Joe. She's smarter, I think— except when she Joe. Bee said . . .
reminds me about behind my ears and all that Mrs. Lee. Don't make me speak to either of
nonsense. (Pauses.) Say, Bee, wouldn't you you again,
like to be white sometimes? (Slowly, silently, they flop into chairs again.
Bee. No. They cast sly glances at each other, trying to
Joe. Aw, be yourself ! I saw you almost cry keep sober. Finally both grin sheepishly.)
the other day in geography. You saw Allen Bee. (softly). You didn't hurt me much.
Farnsworth look and grin when they were saying Joe. Why'd you holler ?
about the black race havin' kinky hair and all Bee. I wanted you to stop,
that junk. Joe. I'll squeeze you hard next time.
Bee. Well, anyway, I wouldn't be white. Bee (hands behind her). Dare you.
Joe (pointing finger). You're bein' stubborn! Joe. Say it again, and see what happens.
Bee (slapping finger). Get your finger out o' Bee. Double dare,
my face. » (Joe jumps at her so suddenly that in evading
Joe. (catching her hand and laughing). Who'll him she falls over chair. He trips also. They
make me ? are in awkward positions on floor when Mrs. Lee
Bee (rising, he holds her tightly). Stop, Joe, appears.)
Joe. Make me. Both (giggling). It was Bee— Joe.
Mrs. Lee (entering and re-arranging things).
March right off to bed, the two of you. Do you
(They get up and face left. At sound of door
bell Mrs. Lee goes out. Voices are heard out-
side: "Frances I" "Hello, mother," etc. Children
rush out. They come back immediately with
each a bag. Frances and mother follow. Frances
is the center of attention. She takes off hat and
coat and sits down. Mrs. Lee stands near table.
The children stand at a distance from Frances,
Mrs. Lee. Well, this is a surprise, Frances.
How did it happen?
Joe (to Bee). I will!
Bee (alarmed). You needn't.
Joe (teasing). I will !
Bee. Don't, Joe, please . . .
Joe. Frances, she got a C in 'rithmetic.
Bee (running out). You mean, hateful boy!
I hate it, anyway.
Frances (laughing). Come back, Bee, it can't
be helped. I hate it, too. (Bee comes back and
hangs over Frances's chair. Joe sprawls near his
mother. They cast glances at each other.) Oh,
yes, you were asking me why I am ahead of time.
Well, you see, there is to be a most wonderful
week-end party at Oak Manor given by one of
the wealthiest girls on the campus. Mary says
that my name is actually on the list. I had to
get home and sort of get together. I cut a class
to do it, but the party is worth it.
Mrs. Lee. We'll miss having you here.
Frances. I know it, but this time I'm not able
to be sensible and resist.
Mrs. Lee. Of course you want to go. They
are all white though, aren't they?
Frances. Yes, but they are all so nice to me
that I shall be quite at home. Then, too, Palmer
is going. We can be together, and I just know it
will be great.
Mrs. Lee. Does everyone in the school go?
Frances. Indeed not. That's the thrill of it.
Only a dozen or fifteen couples are to be favored.
No one but Mary could make me believe that
I'm actually included.
Mrs. Lee (trying to hide worry). Won't it be
Frances. About a hundred dollars extra would
do wonders. Isn't my endowment policy due
about now? You know I'm twenty-one. (She
hugs her knees in anticipation.)
Mrs. Lee. We'll see about it. But run and
rest a while now, and I'll get you a bite to eat.
Frances (rising). Sounds good to me. I'm
famished. But such oodles of news as I still
have to tell you. Don't bother fixing anything
special, for I could chew shingle nails. (She goes
out. Bee follows, making a face at Joe as she
reaches the door. Joe bolts after her.)
Mrs. Lee. Right back here, young man. I'll
have no more fussing in this house tonight.
(A voice is heard outside. A pleasant young
girl of about Frances's age enters.)
Edna. Hello, folks. I walked right in, since
the door was open.
Mrs. Lee. Fine. Come right in, Edna.
Edna (coming in and ruffling Joe's hair ; he
frowns). I saw Frances come in, and couldn't
wait to greet her. Isn't she ahead of time?
Mrs. Lee (blankly). Yes, we were not looking
for her until tomorrow. It was a real surprise.
She is upstairs, and will be right down. Make
yourself at home. (Edna leans on the table ana
thumbs a book. Mrs. Lee rises.). Edna, my
dear— (noticing Joe)— -Joe, mother wants to speak
to Edna. (He scuffs out.) I suppose I shouldn't
bother you with this, but, well, it's like this . . .
Edna (encouraging). What is it?
Mrs. Lee (in an attempt to get it over with).
Frances had some money from an endowment
policy. We spent it, and cannot replace it at
once. I didn't think of Francie wanting it so
soon. I had planned to give it to her in gold for
her birthday. (She sits down again and fingers
her beads or scarf nervously.)
Edna. Do you think that Frances will really
Mrs. Lee. Oh, she won't mind, because I de-
posited it to Bob's account. He finishes How-
ard this year, you know, and he is always broke.
Poor Bob's pitiful plea came with the check—
the same mail. It was pampering him to send so
much, but, as I told you, the money was handy,
and I planned getting it in gold from the bank
the first of the month. What worries me is that
Francie has her mind set on a party for this very
week-end. I'd rather do anything than spoil her
Edna. That is a shame. What can we do?
Mrs. Lee (leaning toward Edna). I don't
know, but I thought you might help me think.
I'm rather upset about it. She wants new clothes,
(Edna gets up and walks to the window.
There is an awkward silence.)
Edna (turning). I'll tell you what, let's not
tell her until the last moment— that is, let's wait
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
a day and see if she decides to do without many
new things. I'll try to talk her into making the
trip as cheaply as possible.
Mrs. Lee (rising and going toward door). All
right, Edna, you do that, and we'll both sleep on
it before we tell her. You just make yourself
comfortable while I fix her something to eat.
She ought to be down any minute now. (She
Edna (coming down center and sitting on
chair arm). Just like a mother. A couple hun-
dred—it must have been that much— to that
spendthrift of a son. And to be paid back to a
gem of a daughter from the interest of the family
income. Well, Frances deserves it, there is no
doubt about that. (She goes back to the window
and looks out. Frances comes in on tiptoe, and
surprises Edna. They hug each other. Edna
Frances. Not really! Is he keen?
Edna. You'll see him. How about yourself—
Frances. No news here, except that the ador-
able Palmer Brennon is to be invited to Dolores'
party, and Mary says she saw my name on her
list. I hope the invitation comes tonight.
Edna (sitting, while Frances lounges on the
arm). Your mother told me. Isn't it thrilling !
Frances. Positively ! They evidently are ask-
ing both of us, to make it pleasant all around.
We must shop tomorrow. I have an insurance
that is most handy at this particular time. I
really think mother has it already, but wants to
Edna. Yes ?
Mrs. Lee (from outside). Come on, girls. I'm
(They go out with their heads together. Joe
comes in and sits down in deep thought, his head
in his hands. He snaps his fingers as if an idea
had struck him.)
Joe (calling). Bee, O Bee! (She enters.) Lis-
ten, silly, I've got news.
Bee. Foolin' ?
Joe. No, I'm not.
Bee (going to window). Joe, the mailman is
coming here. I can just see him.
Joe (over her shoulder). Gee, Sis, I've a hunch
it's that letter.
Bee. What letter?
Joe. You wouldn't understand, » but wait.
(He runs out, coming back with a letter in his
hand. Bee stays at the window.) See, I was
right. It's a special for Frances. Can you keep
Page Forty -four
Bee. Of course.
Joe. Well, this is that letter inviting Frances
to the party, and her money is spent, so she can't
Bee. I've got five dollars in my bank.
Joe (with disgust). What's five dollars? The
check was for ever so much over a hundred. Sit
down. (She does.) Now, listen. If Frances does
not get this mother won't have to worry about
sending her money to Bob. She'll think the rich
girl forgot to invite her, after all.
Bee (in alarm) Oh, Joe, we can't keep it.
Joe. Well, what shall we do?
Bee (frowning). I can't think.
Joe (fingering the letter). We might open it.
Bee (covering her ears). Oh, Joe, never,
Joe (with an air of importance and standing
with feet apart, near her). Bee, remember
you're a girl. I'm going to pry it open and read
it to see if that helps.
Joe. My jackknife. (They bend eagerly over
the table as Joe prys the letter open carefully.
As it is done they both sigh heavily.) Listen to
this: "Dear Frances, I'm having a week-end
party at the Oak Manor, and want you to come.
Palmer, we hope, will come also. You are both
so clever, we want you to help entertain.
Haven't you some old things so that you can
dress like— well, you know — sort of old-
fashioned, and sing some of those delightful spir-
ituals? Palmer will probably bring his sax.
You will have some fun, besides serving your
schoolmate, Dolores Page."
Bee. Then Frances won't need much money,
Joe. Won't you ever grow up a little !
Bee. I'm as old as you are.
Joe (strolling to window, and looking back at
her in contempt). In years.
Bee. You're not so awful smart, see.
Joe (coming back to the table). Well, we
can't argue this time, and you can't ever tell, be-
cause you helped me. (He tears the letter into
bits and stuffs it into his pockets, while Bee looks
on in wonder and amazement. She jumps up and
runs to door to peep and see that no one has seen
Bee. Don't you feel most awfully wicked,
Joe (with feeling). No, I don't, but I just hate
that Dolores Page. Let's go now. ( Voices are
heard). We'll feel— guilty— a little bit— when
they come in. (They tiptoe out hand in hand.)
By GRACE VERA POSTLES
Just a song
And then a prayer—
A song and a prayer again ;
A song for life,
A prayer for death-
Let this be the end.
The grass may work
About my grave
And wrap me
In a shroud of green.
And I will be in quietude
Content to repeat your song
In the happiest moment
Of her life
She sang a song of pain.
In the darkest moment
Of her life
She sang a song of joy.
On joy depends pain,
On pain, joy.
Alas ! and that is life.
A Lighted Candle
You move with a slight tremulous motion
As you plead earnestly for a chance;
You sway and dance so frantically,
But you grow weak and dim,
And as the shades of darkness fall,
Your life becomes extinct.
The little thoughts we cherish,
And strive in our hearts to kindle,
Are often smothered by a stronger flame
And passed into oblivion.
The heart that's
Sealed with joy
Will melt in sorrow ere long;
The heart that beats with gladness,
Must throb with affliction
And expel the commingling elements
Into the cup of golden sorrow.
We drink the bitter tonic
And live another life.
The Red Cape
By GERTRUDE SCHALK
ETER walked down the gangplank
of the Southern Cross, a small brown
paper bundle held carefully in the
crook of one muscular arm. He
stopped for a moment on the dock
and brushed his worn peajacket with a calloused
brown hand, settled his cap firmly on his round,
shaven head, and started for home.
"Hy, there, Pete. I'm agoin' yo way." Shorty
scuffed up to Peter, his short, broad frame clad
most unseamanly in a bright checkered suit.
"I'm agoin' uptown, too."
Peter looked down from his height of six-
feet-three at the eye-dazzling splendor of his
friend and shipmate. He grinned.
"Shuh," went on Shorty happily, tipping his
undersized derby further over one ear. "It sure is
p-ood to put yo hoofs on dry Ian agin, ain't it,
Peter grunted. Words, expressive of just how
glad he was to be on shore again, were crowding
up in his throat, but somehow they stuck in his
windpipe and choked him. Peter had always
been inarticulate. It had never been easy for
him to talk. Sometimes he felt he would burst
if he couldn't talk ; yet he had never burst, and
he had never talked more than was necessary.
"Yes, sah, I'm agoin to fill ma eyes with all
the fem-i-nines I kin find." Shorty looked up
at his companion and winked. Then, suddenly :
"Say, Pete, where yo goin? Have yo got a gal
in this poat?"
Peter cleared his throat loudly. "Got a
wife," he said, and he unconsciously straightened
his square shoulders.
"No! Sho nuff?" The little man was aston-
ished. "Now, what yo thinka that! How long
yo bin married?"
"Ten months," said Peter.
Shorty was silent, while he surreptitiously
counted on his stubby fingers. Then, in fur-
ther amazement, he turned again to Peter.
"Lord, Pete, yo bin away on the Southe'n
Cross fo six months! Yo mean to tell me yo
left yo wife fo that long time, when yo s had only
bin hitched fo foah months?" He gazed, in-
credulously at his friend.
Peter nodded shortly; his stride lengthened.
How could Shorty know that Peter himself had
Page Forty -six
worried about the same thing ?— leaving a four
months' bride for six months, alone. Well, any-
way, it was over now. Peter was back, and
please God, he would stay home for some time
"Uh," said Shorty thoughtfully, "six months
a long time to leave a gal. They git lonesome-
like, an . . . But I guess yo gal's different."
He looked hopefully at Peter.
"Yeah, Mamie's— different." And Peter's eyes
grew tender when he pictured his Mamie in all
her brown loveliness rushing to meet him.
"That's who yo brung them red shoes fer,
aint it?" Shorty nodded toward the brown
paper bundle under Peter's arm.
Peter grinned widely. "An she's got a red
cape." In his mind he could see the red cape
and the red shoes on Mamie.
"Urn," Shorty grunted admiringly. "Bet she
look too hot in all that red, huh?"
Peter didn't answer. He was breathing
deeply of the warm May air with its welcome
odor of people and stores and cars and horses,
and the innumerable other scents peculiar to
towns. The two men were nearing Main street,
Peter striding along swiftly, Shorty half running
in an effort to keep pace with his taller friend.
Just before they turned into Main street,
Shorty stopped suddenly. Peter, halting
"I leaves yo heah, Pete." Shorty grinned
"Where yo goin?" Pete frowned at the devil-
ment on Shorty's face.
Shorty jerked his thumb backward over his
shoulder. "Down there."
Peter looked. They had stopped at the cor-
ner of Sea street, a short thoroughfare with just
three frame houses on one side, the last, a yellow
ramshackle building, backing right into the
Baptist burying ground.
"Yo going to— Sadie's?" Peter made no at-
tempt to conceal his distaste.
"Nothin else but," grinned Shorty. "I craves
fem-i-nine company right now."
"But them gals is rotten," protested Peter,
Shorty laughed loudly. "I likes em rotten.
The rottener the better, I says. Well, guess I'll
THE RED CAPE
be hittin it. I aint got too much time. Yo
know, I'm sailin on high tide tonight."
"Goin' on the Beacon?"
"Yep. The damned ole Southe'n Cross goh
be roun this poat too long to suit me. I'll kinda
miss yo, Pete."
"I didn't know yo was goin . . ." Pete
choked. He wanted to tell Shorty how sorry
he was that they had come to the parting of
the ways, but the words would not come. He
held out his hand. "Uhhuh. Goodbye, Shorty."
Shorty understood. "I was hopin yo would
come, too, but seein yo is hitched . . ." He
ended with a sigh. "Well, I'll be seein' yo some-
time. Good luck."
Peter stood on the corner and watched
Shorty's broad figure bearing itself jauntily to-
ward the yellow house. When Shorty came out
of that house he wouldn't have a cent. Peter
growled deep in his chest; what he'd like to do
to Sadie and all her women !
"Well, well, if it aint ole Pete!" A thin
brown man stopped in front of the sailor and,
thrusting out a nervous hand, gripped Peter's,
shaking it heartily. "It's bin a montha Sun-
day's since I seen yo last."
Peter grinned. "Six months," he said liter-
The man pushed his hat to the back of his
head and scratched his ear. "My, my! A half
a yeah. Six months."
"Yeah," assented Pete, sidling around to make
a fresh start for home. He didn't want to be
kept any longer from seeing Mamie.
"Say, Pete . . ." The man was trying to
remember something. His forehead was
wrinkled in a frown. "Seems to me I heard
something bouten yo. . . . Now what was that ?"
"If it warnt yo it was somebudy near yo.
. . . What was that, now?"
Peter felt something flicker excitedly within
him. " Yo hear bouten my wife ?"
The thin brown man slapped his knee and
guffawed loudly. "Yo hit the nail on the head,
Boy. Cose I 'member now — " He stopped sud-
"Yeah," said Peter calmly. "What yo hear?"
The other man looked as if an invisible hand
had been placed across his mouth. He shuffled
his feet in the dust and scratched his ear nerv-
"I ... I can't rightly member now, Peter."
But his eyes shifted suddenly to the ground.
Edging around the curious-eyed Peter, the man
began to back away. "Guess I better be hittin
it fo' home. The ole lady's waitin fo me, I
guess. Pick yo up later."
Peter stood watching the man's hasty depar-
ture. What in hell was the matter with him?
Heard something. . . . Folks were always hear-
ing things. Peter snorted. Next to women
like Sadie, he hated gossips.
Shrugging his shoulders, the big man faced
homeward once more. He had taken perhaps
two paces when a moving flash of color filled
the corner of his eye. He turned quickly to-
ward Sea street and the yellow house. A woman
in a red cape was running past the burying
ground, making a bright streak in the gather-
Peter stood fast, a tall raw-boned brown man,
as motionless as a statue of darkest bronze.
Where had that red cape come from? Instinc-
tively the man's eyes searched the three houses
of Sea street. The first two were vacant. That
left only the yellow house.
The red cape disappeared in the gloom of the
upper end of the burying ground, and Peter,
with mind an insane turmoil, moved mechan-
ically down Main street.
The woman in the red cape was Mamie. He
knew that. He felt that he had known all along
that something like this would happen. Six
months was too long to leave a bride, yet . . .
He remembered suddenly the thin brown
man's effort to recollect "somethin" and the
too abrupt halt in the conversation. Rage filled
him— rage at Mamie and rage at himself for
leaving her. What if he had made more money
for this six months' cruise? What was money
when one's wife was unfaithful? Drops of
perspiration dripped into his eyes ; the palms of
his hands were hot and moist.
Something ground into his side. He looked
down. The tiny spiked heel of one of the red
shoes had broken through the paper and was
sticking into him. Unseeingly he turned the
parcel over and went on down the street.
People passing him stared curiously at the
queer, set expression on his face. Peter fancied
that they were pitying him ; pitying him for hav-
ing a faithless wife. Yet it hadn't been all
her fault. Mamie, young and alone in the house
day after day, week after week, month after
He found himself praying clumsily that when
he got home she would deny being on Sea street.
Even if she was lying, he prayed she would stick
to it to the last. What if other people knew it?
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
If she only denied being on Sea street. ... It
would be so easy for him to forget it. He'd
Peter walked past his street three times be-
fore he could turn in and seek his house. The
rage had died down ; only a dull misery sat upon
his heart. He crushed his head in his big hands
to still the tortured visions of the billowing red
Now he was going up the creaking wooden
steps to his flat. He stood for a moment on the
landing outside the door, breathing quickly.
Then he turned the knob quietly.
Mamie stood with her back to the door, clat-
tering pans on the stove. The warm smell of
frying filled the kitchen. In the center of the
floor the table was laid for two, with a red
fringed cloth and sweet-grass napkin rings.
Peter remembered them; he had brought them
At the sound of the opening door, Mamie
turned her head. When she saw Peter she gave
a little scream of joy and, rushing around the
table, flung herself into his arms. Instinctively
Peter's arms curved about his wife's slender
waist. She hung around his neck, her thin arms
trying to drag his head down to her own.
The feel of his wife's warm body against his
own was an agony to Peter. This woman who
lay in his arms had betrayed him.
He took her head in his huge hands ; her face
seemed somehow thinner. He looked into her
clear dark eyes and a sickening sensation grew
in the pit of his stomach. Muttering in-
articulately, Peter thrust her away. Mamie
fell back, her eyes hurt.
"Why, Peter! Aint yo glad to see me?"
Her little hands crept to her flat breasts.
Peter, his face averted, flung himself in a
chair. He must quiet this jumping inside of him
so that he could face her with his question.
That red cape . . . Damn it! He could hear
Mamie's quick breathing above the sizzle of the
"Peter . . ." He looked up and saw fear
growing in the depths of her eyes. "Peter,
what's the matter? Yo sick?"
He shook his head and slumped deeper into
the chair. Why should there be fear in her eyes
unless she was guilty? He shook his head to
clear away the mist that persisted in forming
over his eyes.
After a minute Mamie turned dazedly to the
"My poah boy," she said softly, "he don't feel
She moved softly about, turning the meat in
the frying pan, tasting the rice-and-beans, season-
ing, stirring. Yet, always behind the darkness
of her eyes, her fear grew.
"Look, honey," she said eagerly. "I got rabbit
fo yo . . . smothered in vinegar, jes like yo likes
She looked at him anxiously, almost pitifully.
But Peter had his head between his hands. Then,
without warning, he heard his own voice coming
from a long distance, calm and cold.
"I seen yo tonight."
He felt her start as if he had been touching
her. "Seen me? Where yo see me?" How thin
her voice was!
"I seen yo comin out Sea Street."
The grease in the frying pan hissed sharply in
the sudden stillness. Mamie leaned against the
sink, her eyes seeming to shrink into them-
"Then . . . then yo . . . know?" Her little
figure drooped and her voice was flat.
"Yo admit ..." He couldn't get the words
out. He put one trembling finger in his loose
collar and pulled it farther apart. "I seen you,"
he finished futilely.
"I was — goin to tell you . . . later." She
seemed far away.
"Then, it's true!" Sickeningly the room
whirled. He had never known how he had
counted on her denying it.
"Yes," she whispered," but— who tole yo?"
Her lips trembled; she clutched the hard cold-
ness of the stone sink to steady herself.
"I seen yo," he repeated, and then, as if a
hidden reservoir of words had burst within him,
he began to talk— at first calmly, almost emotion-
lessly, then gradually rising to a frenzy.
Mamie covered her ears with her hands and
cowered between the sink and the stove. She
moaned intermittently, while Peter stood over
the table and beat her down with harsh and
At last it was over. There was nothing more
to say. Breathing heavily, Peter staggered down
the rickety stairs to the street. He stood for a
moment in the cool night air, then with firm
tread he made his way to the docks.
Shorty looked up from the tarred rope he was
winding. Peter stood there, his pea-jacket
swinging open, a brown paper bundle under his
"Lord sakes an I'll be damned ! Is it yo,
Pete? What yo doin on the Beacon? This
ship aint comin back heah fo most two yeahs."
As the ship nosed its way out to sea, Peter
gazed after the yellow lights of the dock as they
receded into the darkness. His eyes were bleak
with the years of misery to come.
"I doh care if we never come back," he said,
and, leaning over the rail, he dropped the brown
paper bundle into the black water. . . .
Back in the warm kitchen with its smell of
frying rabbit, the woman who lived in the flat
below Mamie was trying to comfort the girl.
"But who could've tole him?" asked Mamie,
with a calmness that made her neighbor shiver.
"Nobody much knew bout it."
"No, honey, nobudy much knew," said the
woman. "Only the folks right round heah."
"I was goin to tell him, after he had et . . ."
"I think it's a sin an a shame the way he
treated yo." The woman sniffed indignantly,
but Mamie shook her head.
"He probably thought I oughter sent him
word bout it, but I wanted to surprise him. And
now . . ." She dropped her head wearily.
"Yo poah chile, yo couldn't help it . . . what
happened. But I am surprised he took it the
way he did. After all yo bin through. If he
hadda bin the right kinda man he woulda bin
heah with yo an then maybe it wouldna hap-
pened . . . racing off and leavin yo foah six
Mamie stared before her, her eyes hard and
dry. The neighbor twisted her apron nervously
and patted the girl on the shoulder.
"Yo right thin yet, aint yo?" she said sym-
But Mamie didn't hear. Getting to her feet,
she walked steadily to the bedroom and came
back with a red cape about her shoulders.
"Where yo goin?" asked the woman anxiously.
"To Sea street."
A short while later a woman stood over a
tiny plot in the Baptist cemetery on Sea street.
Kneeling suddenly, she stared with agonized
eyes at the head-stone. "Peter, Jr. Born April
IS, 1928. Died April 30, 1928."
Shuddering violently, the woman lay down
on the damp grave and her red cape fluttered
defiantly to the breeze.
Life has its torments — and also its heaven —
While fate brews the cup that we drain.
Sometimes a smile gives to sorrow a leaven,
And sometimes joy lessens pain.
Toil plies the lash to make sweeter our resting
No matter on what plane we start.
Lonely the journey, and vain is the questing
If friendship is lacking in heart.
See o'er the sands at the dawn of the morning
The sun and the sea as they part;
And then, in the twilight, all land-faces scorning,
They kiss, and in darkness depart.
Over the rosy-red wine of the billows
The sun hears the voice of night call
And fades where the wind-sprites have placed soothing pillows, —
Thus friendship attends upon all.
Joshua H. Jones, Jr.
A Group of Poems
By GERTRUDE PARTHENIA McBROWN
All night long
To the syncopated tunes
Of the jazzers.
Jazz-hounds everyone they were
As they poured their souls
^ Into the instruments of choice.
The fierce wind howled without,
Then, speaking in angry tones,
Shattered the window panes
And blew out the lights.
Zeus hurled his thunderbolts
And zigzagged the lightning through the dark.
The dancers' feet stood still;
The jazz-hounds were mute.
Rolling thunder . . .
A hurricane of souls . . .
The hand of God . . . in the dark.
Awake, love, see the glory of the night,
The glory of the night!
Let's walk the silver carpet
Under heaven's lantern bright.
T*r tit Still is the air,
Silent are the trees;
Even the stars have closed their peeping eyes
And left us to the night.
The glory of the night !
Alone on the silver carpet,
Alone, love . . . alone . . .
Awake, love, awake! . . . the lark!
A crimson blush bids me look on high
As the scarlet dimples deepen in the dark'ning sky,
?£, T? How fast the blending colors come and go . . .
O infinite miracle I dare not know !
Fold me in your veil of rest . . .
Now all is calm . . . I'm blest.
I've a dream
Spun from your silken hair,
With the starlight of your eyes.
I've a dream
Swaying with the rhythm of your form,
With the melody of your song.
I've a dream
Woven out of the soul of you
Into the soul of me.
And now,— I see the moon I
Away from the busy crowd
A penitent woman stole one day,
And hurried into a church to pray.
Away from the noisy throng j^^S.
A tall red man stole one day,
And climbed Mount Henry to pray.
She knelt before the holy cross ;
He communed with the sacred tree.
Both bowed to worship;
Both felt the need of Thee.
If Wishes Were Horses
By EDYTHE MAE GORDON
HE boat churned its way up the harbor.
Men, women and children filled the
decks. Numbers of people sat on fold-
ing chairs. The wind blew fiercely.
Women held down their skirts to keep
their knees from showing.
In the shadows, near a corner, there sat a man
holding the hand of a little girl. His brown
felt hat flopped weakly over a sallow, hollow-
cheeked face. He stroked his greying black
hair with an impatient gesture. His harassed
mind had been further disturbed. What had
that gypsy fortune-teller meant, anyway? For
the fun of it, he had gone into her tent on the
beach. Now he could not dismiss from his
mind this swarthy, dirty-looking woman in her
outlandish costume of red, orange, and purple.
He got up and went below. He bought him-
self a magazine, and a bar of candy for the little
girl. On their way up, they stopped to watch
the greenish-white water dash angrily against
the huge wheels.
The boat passed an island, and most of the
passengers rose, went to the railing, and stretched
their necks in an effort to see the prisoners the
city kept there. Fred Pomeroy sat down. He
was wretched in his dejection. His only interest
lay in trying to fathom the meaning of the
fortune-teller's prognostication. She had taken
his hand and examined the lines of its palm.
After several minutes, she had said:
"Things will be different. Your wife will be
able to realize her desires. She'll do some of
the things that she has long wished to do. You'll
be the maker of her dreams."
Frowning, he glanced down at his trousers.
Though neatly pressed, they were noticeably
threadbare. They had been in service for three
years. He had worked for five years in Shannon-
Jones' Department Store, selling yards and yards
of muslin to tired and irritable women. At
night he wrote stories. He did not make much
advancement at the department store. As to
the stories, all he had been able to realize from
them were pink, blue, and white rejection slips.
Perhaps there was a check at home for the
story "Love Will Find a Way," sent to "Love
Or perhaps, tomorrow morn-
ing, he'd get a promotion, with a ten-dollar raise,
at Shannon- Jones'.
He gazed absently at Dorothea, who had
slipped from his embrace. She was playing
with a little boy on the deck. Pomeroy looked
at her, but he was thinking, "What does it all
mean?" He wondered why he had gone into
the gypsy's tent at all. Why had he been at-
tracted to "Madam Lenora," this woman who
guaranteed to read one's entire life— the past,
the present and the future— declaring that one
would be wiser and happier after a visit to her ?
"True," he reflected, "in a way. She did tell
me something, but she read neither my past nor
my present. She only told me of my future.
I am not happier; certainly I am not wiser. I
can't see how / can make Rachel's dreams come
true, when I don't know what they are, even."
Pomeroy's mazagine dangled between his slim,
brittle fingers. He pondered, and his mood
created these lines:
Why are we always groping, —
Why are we always hoping
To obliterate the pain
And happiness to attain?
When he walked from the boat down the gang-
plank to the wharf, leading Dorothea by the
hand, his eyes strayed to a poster :
CONSULT C. J. MANIX
Proprietor of the Beautiful Steamer
2:30 and 6:30 p. m.
Come early and make your reservations
Pomeroy made a grimace, grasped Dorothea's
hand, and hurried away. He was tired of ex-
cursions. He never wanted to see a beach
Rachel's critical eyes noticed how listless
her husband was at dinner. He ate but little,
and complained as usual of feeling ill. She
attributed his lackadaisical manner to fatigue.
He seemed to be tired, exhausted, all the time.
They had been in bed for hours when Rachel
awoke. She felt cold air blowing upon her,
and she pulled the covers closer. Yet she
shivered. She had dreamed that she was flying
alone in an airplane. She had been sitting in
the cockpit with perfect control, when, suddenly,
something had gone wrong and the engine had
died. The plane had plunged down into empti-
ness. It had struck an ice peak and had landed
on a glaciated mountain. She had heard a roar-
ing noise and had seen a huge block of ice split
itself from the glacier. She had been unable to
reach the wrecked plane because of the faceted
spurs. No human being had been in sight . . .
Her feet were freezing. She lay shivering.
She lay thus for several seconds. She felt colder
all the time. It occurred to her that the room
was as void of sound as the arctic wastes had
been. She listened to hear her husband's breath-
ing. There was no sound. Suddenly afraid, she
reached out her hand and laid it on his face. He
was icy cold . . .
Some weeks later Rachel received a long blue
envelope in the mail. When she opened it a check
for $50,000 fell on her lap.
It was Pomeroy's insurance . . .
Nellie Niles, who had once lived across the
street from the Pomeroys, sat reading the Sun-
She idly turned to the society section. For
the amusement it afforded her, she read column
after column concerning marriages, bridge
parties, weddings, club activities, church affairs,
and the doings of the younger set. Her eyes
came to rest on the headline:
SAILS FOR EUROPE
She read the accompanying story:
Mrs. Alfred Pomeroy, of 69 Academy road, Boston,
accompanied by her daughter, Dorothea, sailed Friday
afternoon for Europe. After touring Italy, France,
and Spain, Mrs. Pomeroy will be the guest of Mrs.
Conklin Van Bruce, at her villa at Cap D'all, France."
Nellie Niles stared from protruding eyes, then
she read the item over again, slowly. She laid
the sheet on her knees, her heart beating pain-
fully and her gaze straying off into space.
She sighed. In an acrimonious tone, she ex-
claimed aloud: "Gee, gosh!" Then she added
mournfully: "Some people have all the luck!"
I would command.
But do not decide —
Leave the question open.
Your passional nature
Will not decide now,
On intellectual grounds.
Your passion is stronger
Than your technical rule
An undetermined truth.
Let logic, later, rule
I would command.
Edythe Mae Gordon.
By JOSHUA H. JONES, Jr.
The Last Leaves Fall
The last leaves fall and winter's gelid hand
Has left a bleakness where it stripped each twig and shrub.
Where yesterday a vernal warmth made glad the land,
A sallow, sad, sere gloom drapes heath and scrub.
Where living mantle dressed the shoulders of the earth,
Now only veil of glory, dimmed and gone, remains;
Where birds delightedly their throaty matins gave,
A tomb-like stillness hovers that all mirth restrains.
Yon path that wound beneath the shaded sky
Shows whitened strip as if some knife had drawn
Across the flesh and left a bleachened scar,
A mask for epitaph for effort writ in toil and scrawn.
How bright the moonbeam danced o'er mead, and cast
Its shaft of brilliance on a livid earth.
Now all the beauty, all the thrill of life is past.
When seen in nakedness, what worth ?—what is the worth ?
The last friends go and I am left alone
With only ghosts to tell who lived on summer's slopes ;
Just memory remains, like some inscribed stone
Above a sepulchre wherein lie buried dreams and hopes.
Has life been vain? — Was summer's gladness nought?
Did friendship have no solacing for all the dearth?
The cold wind's answer in the trees is caught :
"Who lives for friends has blessed a parched and dying earth.
When dew-dank airs are cooling
The earth for night's repose,
Astraea, sun-trails ruling,
Lures sweet sighs from the rose.
Then Mem'ry fond comes warning
Or days gone now so long,
And brings old thoughts new-borning,
With oft re-echoed song.
As twilight to dusk turning
Drapes all the Great Sikh's art,
Night shrouds me— leaves a burning
Pain throbbing near my heart.
Twilight dampness chills the vespered air.
Wisps of soft, white jog float over rustic hill, —
(Vanguards of the night that follow day when fair),
While from the nearby copse come voicings of a rill.
Now eerie whispers sigh like gentle zephyrs through the trees,
To tease the heart to thrill, the feet to prance.
The night prepares to set the whole world at its ease,
While o'er the silv'ry, wispy lawn the moonbeams dance.
I love to dance!
Calling Me Home
Out of the misty years, out of my dreams,
Voices of memory call me.
Over the passing years, bridging love streams,
Longings come — wistfully thrall me.
Eager am I for the friends I have known ;
Seek I again for the days that have gone.
Oh, for an echoing voice, as I roam
In old paths, calling me home.
Only brief yesterday childhood was here
Grief into happiness blending,
Till only beauty and joy came to cheer
Life's recollections, soon ending.
Skies that were blue then, many a cloud
Has painted drab ; hid hopes under a shroud.
Hopes are returning,— birds in the gloam—
Urging me, calling me home.
Departed the mates of those sunny-bright years;
Gone are they all to their duties,
Taking life's offerings, joys with the tears,
Seeking for truth and its beauties.
Often at morn have I stood in the dawn,
Back o'er the years my thoughts have been drawn-
Wafted away across sand and o'er foam,
Back to my youth and my home.
Then as the twilight rays reach to the sky,
Veils of night on me come falling.
While to my heart again memories cry ;
J««^ Mem'ries of friendships come calling.
List'ning I hear them no matter the trail,
If they've found happiness, or if the grail,
Those who're still battling; those 'neath the loam,—
All of them calling me home.
Out of the misty years, out of my dreams,
Voices of memory call me.
Out of the passing years, borne on love streams,
Longings come,— wistfully thrall me.
Cheerfully telling of friends I have known,
Gleefully picturing days that have gone,
Bidding me wait for the call though I roam,
Call that will summon me home.
By ROSCOE WRIGHT
MY LEWIS, brownskin, continued read-
ing the letter that she had just received
from Jackson Scott, ditto. Tear after
tear, in slow procession, trailed from
her sad, reddened brown eyes. One by
one the teardrops fell on the hastily scribbled
sheet of paper that she held in her trembling,
calloused dark hands. Each word of Jack's
letter was a flaming brand
that hissed and left an ugly
scar on her troubled mind.
She read to the end :
". . . and Amy, dear, I
hardly know how to
tell you, but I am
about to be married
soon. There are many
reasons, after all, why
I can't marry you. I
feel that you realize
my new status in life
and that you are will-
ing to forget and be
considerate about it.
I am sorry, dear, and
I hope you will forgive
"Your friend forever,
The letter slipped from
her nerveless fingers and
dropped to the floor. She
was momentarily stunned.
However, she did not faint :
she had had disappoint-
ments before and was
somewhat inured to them.
But never before had she
been so utterly chagrined.
Her somewhat sensuous lower lip dropped deject-
edly, her long, ginger-brown arms hung limply.
Quick as a flash, the lower lip met the upper in a
line of grim determination: the arm muscles
tautened, and her fists clenched until her finger
nails bent against her hardened palms.
"Oh, hell," she sighed, "that's the way a damn'
man does you. Gets all he wants and then takes
up with somebody else. But I ain't goin' to for-
give him— nor forget him, either ! "
Page Fifty -six
Amy arose and shuffled back into her kitchen.
Here, in this room, was her means of livelihood :
two wooden tubs, and a worn brass washboard.
For more than five years she had rubbed and
scrubbed dirty, sweaty, and steamy "white folks'
clothes" by day, and, by night she had aban-
doned her tired but willing self to the rapacious
whims of Jack Scott. It had pleased her to give
Jack peppermint-striped silk shirts, gay neck-
ties, and screaming socks;
but most of all, it had
pleased her to surrender
herself to him.
Amy tried to resume her
washing but she couldn't.
Even the water-soaked
handkerchiefs weighed a
ton apiece to her, as she at-
tempted to rub them across
the corrugated surface of
her washboard. Images of
Jack haunted her ; thoughts
of his falseness mocked
her. As she gazed listlessly
downward into the hot,
foaming suds, she saw his
face laughing at her from
the myriad, mirror-like
bubbles that alternately
formed and burst. Her
hopes had formed and
burst like these bubbles.
Amy summoned up cour-
age and resumed her toil-
some task. She finished
the clothes in a desultory,
haphazard manner. She
rinsed them and hung
them out on the pulley-line
where they fluttered gayly
in a capricious breeze — a galaxy of silks, linens,
and cotton things. Then she went to her bed-
room: this room, once alive and cheery with
Jack's baritone voice, had now become a silent
purgatory. Jack's large, autographed likeness
grinned malevolently at her. A tie that he had
liked flaunted itself from one of the dresser posts.
These things were now, indeed, objects of torture.
She opened a drawer to get a handkerchief. Her
eyes fell upon a pair of turquoise silk pajamas
— the pair that she had bought for him last
Christmas. Amy broke down. Half dazed, she
flung herself across the bed.
As she lay there, vibrant with sorrow, the
events of the previous five years flitted rapidly
before her eyes. They seemed like fragmentary
motion picture scenes.
* * * *
Five years ago she had met Jack— to her it was
only yesterday. Amy was thirty-three, then.
But she hadn't appeared to be a day over
twenty-five. She had just secured a divorce from
her drinking, brawling husband on the grounds
of adultery, having felt that she could stand his
infidelity no longer. She was living alone when
she met Jack, and was attempting, for the first
time, to completely earn her own keep by tak-
ing laundry to do at home. "If I had your
looks and your shape, I'd find some other way
besides bursting suds," many of her women
friends had advised her. But Amy preferred the
straight, and, consequently, narrow way. She
was mentally equipped for little but hard work,
having scarcely finished the eighth grade in the
District of Columbia public schools.
Jackson Scott came to Washington just after
Amy had been awarded her absolute divorce
decree. He enrolled in Freedman University
there. He was of the type that almost any
woman would fall for— tall, robust, and hand-
some. His not-too-long, bronze face combined
two natures, sweetness and seriousness. His
eyes were positively compelling, and he knew
how to use them effectively.
Jack, like many other students at Freedman,
began to crash the "rat" dances at a hall on
You street, North West. These hops were given
regularly every Saturday night. The students
called them "ratty" because, strictly speaking,
they were by no means highbrow affairs. The
scholarly boys from "the hill" descended in
large numbers on these plebeian functions, and
they always found servant girls, girls of question-
able virtue, and still other girls that were out-
and-out sidewalk pounders.
Curiously enough, almost all these girls were
physically attractive. Besides, they were easier
pickups than the society belles, who always de-
manded a modicum of respect and were, most
of them, supposedly unapproachable. But these
"totes" were catch-as-can. Ballroom etiquette
was flung to the four winds during round after
round of hot, dreamy jazz numbers. The dull
thud of tom-toms and the blare of tremulous
trumpets had an atavistic effect upon the writh-
ing, perspiring hoofers. Many Freedman boys
had been, wholly or partly, put through school
as a result of having physically pleased some
of the easier pickings that they had met at
Jack met Amy Lewis at one of these honky-
tonk affairs. Amy was trying to disport her-
self and forget some eleven years of unhappy
married life. Her sturdy, well-built legs and
rounded form appealed to him at once. He got
one dance with her— a dreamy slowdrag. That
dance called for more, and then he danced with
her again and again— deliberate, dreamy, quiv-
They talked. Jack told her of his scholastic
activities as a freshman in medical college. He
told her how he was trying to earn his way
through school and how hard that was to do.
Then he told her how difficult it was to find
a girl that wasn't a gold-digger and that really
cared. Amy had always been a hero worshipper.
It flattered her to think that she was being
sought by such a man as this. She looked ahead
into the years and childishly pictured herself
as Mrs. Jackson Scott— "Doctor Scott's wife,"
people would say, as she would roll by them in
a large, chauffeur-driven Plerce-Arrow. Jack
was careless of the truth, and somewhat ego-
tistical. Because of her instantaneous love for
him, Amy assumed every magical sentence of
his to be a pure and unadulterated fact.
Jack saw Amy home after the dance. He had
never before stayed from home or dormitory
all night. When he left her apartment the next
morning he felt that a new and hitherto un-
known phase of life had been opened to him.
He had got his first taste of a mature woman's
love and had liked it, because it was so unlike
the half-ripened passion of the adolescent
"dickty" debs and sub-debs with whom he had
associated since his teens.
Days passed, months unrolled into years. Amy
had jealously mothered Jack through his fresh-
man, sophomore, junior and senior years of
medical training. At first there had been small
loans to him, on his promise to pay when his
ship came in: this mythical vessel always re-
mained far at sea. As time went on, the loans
took on the nature of gifts. And they were fre-
quent—there were ever books to buy, fraternity
dues to pay, athletic assessments, and spending
change. But washing clothes paid well. Amy
was able to help Jack along and save a bit,
besides. She saw that he got his lessons, even
when he didn't feel like studying. She never
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
went out anywhere with him. She seldom felt
like going anywhere but to bed, when her long
days of labor were ended. And when she did
happen to want to go to a dance or a movie,
Jack was either too busy or he had a very im-
portant "conference" with his "dean." Never
once did he speak of marriage. But she didn't
care. She did not expect him to espouse her
until he became Dr. Scott ; then he surely would
wed her. She knew !
Jack was away during the three vacation
months of each year, and Amy was blue and
miserable. He wrote regularly, twice each week,
and his fervid, sugary letters compensated some-
what for his absence. One summer he went to
Asbury Park as bell-hop ; another, he worked
on the Fall River line steamers out of New York.
The summers following his junior and senior
years were spent in New York, as a red cap at
Penn Station, and waiting on table at Atlantic
Before going to Atlantic City Jack received his
M.D. Amy was now ebullient with pride, to
think that her Jack was at last freed from the
bonds of study. Jack told the elated woman
that he would return in the fall, for the required
year of interne work. He departed for the noted
bathing resort and, on arriving there, got a job
at the Hotel Traymore. Amy, in Washington
with her suds and duds, felt that Jack, no mat-
ter where he was, was always working hard,
thinking of her, and out of mischief.
By some coincidence, Verna Payton, the mag-
netic, dancing daughter of a Harlem real estate
magnate, was also in Atlantic City for a season
of recreation. She went forth daily to pet, play,
and— prey upon the affections of susceptible
young men. Jack had met her during the
previous summer, at a dinner-dance in Harlem.
He had seen her often throughout that vacation,
and he had corresponded irregularly with her
during his senior year at Freedman University.
Amy knew nothing of her new rival. Jack,
forever careful of what he told her, made no
damaging slips of tongue. She intuitively sensed
a slight change in his manner, but she thought
it was because he was studying harder than ever.
She always found some reasonable excuse for his
On a seductive, moonlit June night Jack again
met the voluptuous Verna— this time$ at one of
the gala dances that were held at Fitzgerald's.
From then on things began to happen. Jack
could work fast when he wanted to, and an en-
gagement soon followed. A telegram to Amy
brought the money for a small solitaire— a one-
carat stone, set in green gold.
Shortly after Labor Day Jack returned to
Washington and to Amy. He began his interne
work in a Negro hospital there. He was ter-
ribly grouchy at times, but Amy always toler-
ated him. She could not, however, understand
his visits to New York on Thanksgiving, Christ-
mas, and Easter. He patiently explained that
these trips had to do with state medical boards,
reciprocities,, and other big, polysyllabic things
that were beyond her comprehension.
Spring came. One bright May day, while
Amy was out delivering clothes, Jack went off.
He sneaked his clothing and other belongings
away. He left a short, apologetic note telling
For a month following his departure, Amy was
ill, often in delirium. From May till September
she did not hear from him. She spent days and
nights of heart-breaking agony. Once she stood
on the banks of the muddy, turgid Potomac and
contemplated jumping in and ending her dis-
tress ; however, her courage failed her. Deep-
rooted religious convictions against self-murder
prevented her from taking a final plunge.
Amy awoke from her reverie and stared into
her dressing-table mirror. Her once satin-like
skin was lined with incipient wrinkles. Her
glossy, Dutch-clipped black hair was now kinky
and unkempt. Thirty-eight years old this
month— her last and best chance gone ! Her
eyes roamed lazily over the society page of the
Washington Tribune that lay nearby, and they
rested on a conspicuous photograph. The pic-
ture, at first a dim blot, gradually became dis-
tinctly outlined before her stare. Jack's! The
bold-faced caption beneath the portrait leaped
at her— "Pay ton-Scott Nuptials in New York
This Week." There was a sub-heading— "Freed-
man Medical Grad to Marry Rich Society Belle."
She read on ravenously until she came to "Dr.
Jackson Scott, of 2382 Seventh avenue," and,
for the first time, she learned Jack's New York
"To hell with laundry work. To hell with
everything. I'm goin' to New York. I must
see Jack!" And three hours later she was
aboard the fast Mid-day Express, speeding to
About nine o'clock in the evening of that
same day, Dr. Jackson Scott opened the door
that connected his office with the ante-room in
which his patients waited. He gave a start of
surprise and his heart thumped violently. There,
before him, sat Amy. Her eyes spat fire.
Jack recoiled. She seemed not a woman, but
a sexless, unhuman thing— a puffed and hooded
cobra poised, about to strike.
"Amy! You here? Of all people, I didn't ex-
"That's why I'm here, because you didn't ex-
"You received my letter?"
"Yes, damn you, I did ! "
"Why, Amy! What's the matter?"
"Plenty! I though you were a man, but
you're no good. You have done me downright
dirty. And even if it is no use, I've come to tell
you what a lowdown, stinking cur you are. It
was me, me, that made you what you are today,
and now some other woman is goin' to get the
benefit of it ! "
"But, Amy, calm yourself!"
"Calm nothin' ! I'm gonna talk, and you
can't stop me!"
"My office isn't the place—"
"What do I care about your office ? When you
were down and out, I was all right. Now
you're on your feet— it's hooray for Jack and
to hell with Amy. But that don't go!"
Her voice was steadily, hysterically, rising.
"Amy, let me explain, please ! "
"I don't want your lies. I didn't come here
to hear them."
She spoke in shrill, screaming tones.
"Amy, don't create a scene ! Suppose some of
my patients should come — "
"Damn your patients, and you, too ! "
Something reminded her of her handbag. She
fumbled with its clasp. She attempted to get up
from her seat. All the blood in her throbbing
body rushed to her face and tinted her features
with an apoplectic, purplish-brown. Jack had,
only on one occasion before, seen Amy as angry
as this. He knew how to quiet her. He strode
across the room and took her quickly, but
tenderly, in his arms. She struggled feebly —
his very touch always thrilled her so that she
could never resist it, angry or not.
"Amy, dear, you must consider. I realize that
you have done everything for me. But ... I
need for a wife someone of social standing: a
woman that will fit with the crowd that I am
forced to travel with now. You never men-
tioned the fact that you wanted me for keeps—
I didn't dream that you did."
Charmed by his voice, Amy listened. He
went on :
"I'll admit, dear, that I have done you wrong
— I am sorry for the anguish I have caused you.
But I'll repay you for every cent that you ever
gave me, and more, besides ! "
She struggled to free herself.
"I don't want your filthy money. Money
can't repay me for some things I did for you,
for five years of bein' your slave. Oh, if I had
only known! I am goin.' Let me go!"
She tugged and pushed him, like an enraged
lioness. Jack, rather than engage in rough-and
tumble combat, set her free. She ran to the
door and paused.
"Jackson Scott, you'll live to see the day when
you regret this/' The door slammed. She was
Outside, on the avenue, Amy glanced into her
handbag. Her eyes fell on the small, pearl-
handed revolver she had brought along. She
realized that she had utterly failed— failed to
carry out the intention that had brought her
to New York.
The next morning Amy ambled meekly into
the great ornate African Baptist Church, Har-
lem's finest. She clambered upstairs to the gal-
lery and dropped into a front-row seat. She was
unaware of the assembled crowd of restless spec-
tators buzzing about her. The stately edifice
was a vast beehive filled with whisperings,
steady dronings, and low mumblings of the
gathered throng. The woman felt a lump rise
in her throat, but she choked it back.
There came a hush. The droning and
mumblings subsided to a soft hum, the hum
modulated into a death-house silence. The
throng settled into a state of complete attention.
From out of the yawning depths of her hand-
bag Amy extracted a handkerchief. The gleam
of the shining revolver dazzled her eyes. She
shuddered. Again she swallowed the lump in
her throat and dabbed her moist eyes.
The massive pipe organ began its thundering
peal. The opening strains of Lohengrin's
Wedding March filled the spacious auditorium.
To Amy it was unbelievable. The audience
stood. Mechanically, as if in a trance, she, also,
A chilly, clammy feeling gripped her as Jack
and his best man, immaculate in their black
cutaways, dark gray-striped trousers, and spats,
followed the Reverend Obediah Cotton to the
altar. As Jack took his place, to the right
of the main aisle, Amy noted that he, too, seemed
worried and not himself. He shifted his weight
uneasily from one foot to the other.
Below, on the main floor, the slow, solemn
bridal procession moved from beneath her and
crept down the aisle. The ushers, the flower
girls, the bridesmaids— then the maid of honor.
The bride, a youthful, beautiful brown vision in
white taffeta and tulle, followed majestically on
the right arm of her father. Amy again swal-
lowed the lump that now rose persistently in her
throat. Her heart was heavy. Her handbag
was heavy; its weight taxed her strength. Her
eyes were filling with tears. The whole scene
became a dark blur before her dimmed vision—
only Jack stood out in bold relief.
The clergyman began the ordeal. To Amy,
the ceremony was mere muttering. She rocked
to and fro; she felt herself drifting into an in-
finitude of space. The minister's mutterings grew
louder and louder and formed into vague
"Have this man . . . have this woman . . .
to be thy wife!" Words, words, combinations
of words resounded in her ears. The words rang
like hammering noises in her head.
"If any one ... let him speak . . . now . . .
or forever hold . . . peace!" It was a
challenge! She regained her senses. A deep,
awful silence settled over all.
Amy tried to control herself. She couldn't.
The lump in her throat rose and split into sounds,
the sounds into short, shrieking sentences. The
mausoleum-like silence was suddenly rent by a
long, loud and terrifying scream.
"O Lord! I've got a reason . . . Jack's my
man. . . . She can't have him, Lord ! She can't
She tried to jerk her handbag open. But dark-
ness gathered about her and she sank, exhausted,
in her seat. The Reverend Mr. Cotton decided
to investigate this unprecedented phenomenon
before continuing the ceremony. As a result, the
Payton-Scott nuptials ended in abrupt confusion.
Dr. Jackson Scott and his wife, Amy Lewis
Scott, make their home in South America.
Let me be buried in the rain
In a deep, dripping wood,
Under the warm wet breast of Earth
Where once a gnarled tree stood.
And paint a picture on my tomb
With dirt and a piece of bough
Of a girl and a boy beneath a round, ripe moon
Eating of love with an eager spoon
And vowing an eager vow.
And do not keep my plot mowed smooth
And clean as a spinster's bed,
But let the weed, the flower, the tree,
Riotous, rampant, wild and free,
Grow high above my head I
Why do they prate of youth so much?
'Tis too near to the root.
A budding, yes, but I prefer
The ripening of the fruit.
I heard the wind
Create itself out of
Nothing, and whisper
A secret to the leaves.
I heard the murmuring brook
Sing a song of love
To the blankets of daisies
And bashful willows that
Mirrored their faces from
Green turfy banks.
I heard some droning bee
Kiss the drooping
Face of a lily.
I heard you whisper,
"1 love you."
I heard all the music of nature
Earl Lawson Sydnor.
With dreamer's eyes I watch the crescent moon.
As dancing clouds enrobe her queenly state,
Dull shadows, green and amber, blendingly mate.
The restless leaves and playful brook, attune;
All blending, chiming Nature is a boon,
To loneliness. Inquiringly I slate
The starry sky that entertains my fate—
I read, "The joys of life escaped too soon."
O dreamers' ship, the queen of spaceless skies,
No truer symbol decks the jewelled night
And holds my destiny at its command . . .
Diana, I beseech with aching eyes,
Oh, pause awhile in your majestic flight,
And fill my longing heart and empty hand.
Earl Lawson Sydnor.
My Country Right or Wrong
When the fifes and drums I hear,
And the stars and stripes are near,
I get a quaint and creepy feeling all my own.
I salute my flag and smile,
Yet a citizen exile . . .
And my kin- folks back at home are exiles too.
As on bashful breeze it flies,
There form tear drops in my eyes,
And would to God I had a God to hear my
Through my tear-dimmed eyes I see
What my country means to me . . .
It's just a flag that floats above me . . . just a
Earl Lawson Sydnor.
Some unseen river in
Earth's gullied bowels
Sings a song of love
To the senseless rocks.
The mocking of the
N on-pathetic clay
Is like the echo heard
From songs I sing.
Earl Lawson Sydnor.
A Play in One Act
By JOSEPH S. MITCHELL
Leon A young married man
Amy Leon's wife
Nora Amy's aunt
Juckes A white foreman
Esther Proprietor of employment agency
The time is the present.
The place is any northern city.
A kitchenette room in Nora's house. There is a window on one
side of the room. There are two doors, one of which leads into an
adjoining room and the other of which opens into the back yard.
A gas plate for cooking rests on a box in one corner of the room. A
cot is in another corner, and a table is in the center. A few chairs
are placed in different parts of the room. There are a few dishes
on the table ; a pitcher of water, a water glass, a wash-basin on one
shelf ; food cans are on another. When the curtain rises there is
no one in the room. Presently, Leon, a mulatto of medium build
and rather handsome, but wearing a soiled collar, unpressed clothes,
and unshined shoes, comes in. He has the morning paper in one
hand. He walks despondently across the room, throws the paper
on the table, and taking off his cap and top coat, tosses them on the
cot. Leon then goes to the shelf, takes something out of a box, and
begins to nibble. He sits down at table, takes paper, and turns
several pages. He lights a cigarette and reads a little. Amy, a
mulatto, comes in from an adjoining room. She is a girl of about
twenty and is dressed simply in a house frock. She is chewing gum.
Amy (going towards Leon). Back so soon, himself to death looking for work and trying
Leon? to get his invention accepted. (Nora, a dark-
Leon. Yes, Amy dear. Without any luck, as skinned woman, about forty years of age,
usual. dressed simply in old house clothes, comes in
Amy (sitting close to Leon). Didn't the man from the adjoining room.)
meet you, take you to the plant and give you Nora (going towards Leon). Looka here, Leon,
that job? you cain't live on love 'round here all th' time.
Leon. No. Never showed up. I waited on Y'all been married mos' nigh a month, an' y'
the corner for half an hour. Guess he's scared ain't hit a lick o' work since. This your las'
to take a chance of placing a colored man. (Amy day for honeymoonin.' Git off your high-horses
reaches over for the paper. He gives it to her. an' git somethin' to do.
Nothing in there this morning for men. (He Amy. Mumsy, be patient ; give him time.
takes some papers out of his pocket and places Nora. Done give 'im so much time already
them on the table.) If I could get this invention 'till our stomachs feel like judgment day done
accepted we wouldn't bother other people about come. (Looks meanly at Leon.) You promised
giving us work. if I let you marry Amy you'd support me an' her
Amy (throwing paper aside and stroking both. Now look at you ! Cain't even feed your-
Leon's hair). And my Leon wouldn't have to walk self.
Leon (jumbling nervously with his papers).
Aunt Nora, this is the greatest invention of the
age. If it's accepted we'll want for nothing.
(There is a knock on the door of the adjoining
Nora (moving the dishes from the table to
the shelf). Cain't eat that invention.
Leon. Planning how to improve it. Know it
will go big then.
Amy (stretching and yawning). See who's at
the front door, Mumsy.
Nora. I done raise you from a three-weeks'
old baby, when your ma an' pa got killed by
the train on their way to work—
Amy (interrupting). Go ahead, Mumsy.
That's an old story.
Nora (going into the adjoining room). Now
it's enough to feed an' sleep you idlers without
waitin' on you, too. (Nora goes out.)
Leon (standing up and looking in the direc-
tion in which Nora went). I know now I'd bet-
ter start on my daily rounds. (Amy walks over
casually to the window and begins looking out.)
Gee, honey, you can't imagine how hard it is
to find work!
Amy. It's raining. My sweetums don't want
to get wet looking for an old job. You'll be your
own boss, soon.
Leon. That's what I always wanted to be. I
have made the sacrifice. Now, since you
wish me to, I will! (Nora and Juckes come
in jrom the dining room. Juckes is a
red-jaced white man, heavy-built and rather
tall ; an outdoor workman, wearing overalls, and
smoking an old pipe. He carries an air oj superi-
ority. He does not stand still but walks and
looks around as ij he owned the place. When he
enters Nora is walking slightly behind him.)
Nora (speaking in a humble tone). Yes, sir,
Mr. Juckes, he needs work. Whether he wants it
or not, give 'im somethin' to do.
Leon (manjully, and extending his right hand
to Juckes, who apparently does not notice it).
Good morning, Mr. Juckes. Got something good
for me to do today, Mr. Juckes ?
Juckes. Got a good porter's job. Fifteen dol-
lars a week. The colored porter we had
struck with the white workers.
Leon. Got something else, more in my line ?
Juckes (excitedly). What's the difference, so
long as it's work?
Amy (angrily). You white folks think that's
all a colored man can do— porter's work. Leon
didn't get an education to be a porter. Did you,
Juckes. Better be glad to get that from us,
so long as you ain't got nothing yourselves.
Nora. Don't be sassy, Amy. I didn't raise
you that way.
Leon. What about a machinist's job, over to
the plant, Mr. Juckes?
Juckes. Them's dangerous. Strikers might
Nora. Porter's work's better'n starvin' !
Leon (glancing at his invention papers).
Well, I'd like to work at my trade.
Nora. He's scared of gittin' corns in his
hands, Mr. Juckes. Always lookin' for work
an' prayin' to God he won't find none.
Leon. Not that, Mumsy. (Speaking to Juckes
rather indignantly.) I resent discrimination!
It's the principle ! It's the principle !
Nora. Cain't eat principle.
Juckes ( sneeringly ) . Take it or leave it.
That's what I say about you educated fools.
(Juckes goes out. For a jew moments there is
silence. Leon sits down at the table. Nora be-
gins examining the boxes on the shelj. Amy
continues looking out oj the window. Leon rests
his chin in the palm oj his right hand.) What
about the North: Get an education and can't
use it. Spend money and can't earn it.
Amy (shaking her head in a discouraged man-
ner). And conditions are getting worse.
Nora (to Leon). If you cain't find work
'roun here y' ought to go back South. Plenty
Amy (coming jrom window to the center oj
room). I have something to say about that.
Leon. Me! Go South! What chance have I
got to be a man? Rather be a lamp post here.
Nora. Keep on bein' out o' work you'll be
a tombstone. (There is a knock on side door,
lejt.) Come in. (Nora goes and opens door and
Esther comes in. Esther is a blonde woman oj
medium height, about thirty, and dressed in a
plain business suit. She has the manner and
bearing oj an intelligent and cultured person.
Amy and Leon stand up.)
Esther (coming to center oj room). Good
morning. (Bowing to every one in the room.)
Amy (together with Leon). Good morning.
(Leon offers Esther a seat. Esther and Leon sit
down. Amy arranges a pillow on cot and lazily
reclines on it. Nora continues working.)
Nora. Good mornin'. You'd think it's eve-
nin', tho', the way they's hangin' 'round the
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
house. Glad you come, Miss Esther. Never see
you less'n you have some work.
Esther. Came by on my way to the office to
see how you like your new place. Haven't seen
you since I placed you.
Nora (looking at Esther sharply from corner
of eye). You ought to know better 'n what you
Esther. I thought I was helping you by
getting you work.
Nora. But what kind of work?
Esther. Don't you like domestic work?
Nora. Umph ! That ain't it, an' you know it.
Couldn't 'spect no better from you white folks.
Esther. Sorry, Mrs. Lewis, if I hurt your
Nora. Umph !
Esther. Have something else for you. I was
planning to give it to Amy, but I'd rather for
you to have it. A Mrs. Thome, at number 23 Bay
Road, wants a good woman to do day's work—
Nora (interrupting). She ain't cullud, is she,
like that woman you sent me to before?
Amy. Mumsy, you know they won't let
colored people live on Bay Road. They hardly
want them to work there.
Esther (puzzled). What of it if she were
Nora. Not stuck on workin' for cullud folks.
Esther. Well, Mrs. Thorne is white. I
promised her I'd have a smart woman the first
thing this morning. The pay is three dollars a
day, carfare, and one meal.
Nora. Least one member of th' family can
keep from starvin'— work myself to death 'round
here an' get nothin' for it—
Esther (interrupting). Go right away,
please. (Gives Nora a piece of paper.) Take
this note of introduction.
Nora. Thanks, Miss Esther. How much I
owe you for that ?
Esther. She'll hold my commission out of
Nora. Wait 'till next week 'fore you let her
take it out, 'cause we ain't scarcely got a mouth-
ful of food.
Esther. I'll send her word to give it all to
Nora (Bowing in appreciation) . Very much
oblige! You's so considerate! The Lord will
bless you. Is it askin' you too much to find a job
for them chillun? (She points to Amy and Leon,
who have been at the table all the while whisper-
ing inaudibly and examining the papers.) He's
Page Sixty -four
my son-in-law now. Amy's done gone plum crazy
an' got married since you's 'round here las'.
Esther (looking at Amy and Leon with some
surprise, and receiving a smile from them). Oh,
what a nice-looking couple! (A brief pause.)
Let them come over to my office. Maybe I can
find something for your niece.
Amy (indignantly). Leon promised to sup-
port me. Didn't you, sweetums?
Leon (standing up and lighting a cigarette).
Not only promised. I'll work if work can be
found. I am not the kind to loaf.
Esther. Work for colored people is very
scarce. The people who prefer white help will
sometimes take colored for less wages.
Amy. Nobody need think I'm going to do
more work for less wages because I am not
Nora. Your husband will have to do it, then.
Esther. Yes, because work for men is
Nora. Women have to support men, when
they can get work and men cain't. (Nora goes
out into adjoining room and changes her dress.)
Amy. Catch me doing it!
Leon (sitting carelessly on one side of the
table and speaking seriously.) Since we've mar-
ried, Miss Gaines, we have gotten tough breaks.
I have walked the streets until my feet are
blistered, looking for something to do. What
chance have I except in my own line? They
wouldn't even think about giving a colored man
a clerical position. Can't get a butler's or a
cook's or a waiter's job, unless I am experienced.
Everybody now is a specialist. (Taking his in-
vention papers in his hands.) My invention is
good, if only I could interest the proper person.
I took it over to the plant a few months ago.
They kept it awhile, then refused it. They said
it was not good; but I know better. (Appeal-
ingly.) Perhaps, Miss Gaines, you could intro-
duce me to some of the big shoe manufacturers.
(Shows her the papers.) I understand you have
their ear to many things.
Esther (looking at the papers curiously and
interestedly). What is the name of your inven-
Leon. "Shoe-Leather Stitcher." It elimi-
nates work, and saves time.
Esther. Look at the number of people it
would throw out of work. The reason you are
out of work today is that there are so many
Leon (smoking more rapidly, gesticulating
with his hands and speaking bitterly). You're
mistaken, Miss Gaines. It's because I had the
misfortune of being born in this country into a
despised race. Whatever I attempt to do suffers
the same misfortune. Here, color is the mother
Esther (calmly). You must not be so bitter,
Mr. Davis. Bitterness begets bitterness ; it is
the twin brother of failure. To show you that
your attitude is the wrong one, Mr. Davis, I, a
person whom you think to be against you and
your people, will intercede in placing your inven-
tion in one of the largest shoe plants in the city.
Is it patented?
Leon. The patent is pending. Nothing like
it in the entire shoe industry. If I were a white
man I'd be a millionaire tomorrow. (Nora
comes in from the adjoining room. She is
dressed to go out. She has hat and coat in her
Esther. It is not the color, young man ; it is
Nora. I done tol' 'im, Miss Esther, he'd
starve waitin' on that invention. What he needs
is work, an' not work 'liminator. Work is
scarce 'nough as 'tis.
Esther (getting up and going towards side
door, left, laying papers on table as she passes).
Looks like a good thing, Mr. Davis. In the
meantime I'll try to get you some work. Come
around to my office as soon as you can. I am
certain I can place you at the shoe plant. They
always take my recommendations. (She goes
Nora (putting on hat and coat). Got to hurry
and git this job 'fore somebody else beats me to
it. Don't y' all hang 'round here all day, spoonin.'
Hurry down to that 'ployment office. Winter's
mos' nigh here. Cain't live off love like you do
in Summer. This is the las' day I'm s'portin'
you. 'Fore I gits back, you fetch me a job or git
yourself a new roostin' place. (Nora goes out.
Amy and Leon lok at each other solemnly, then
Leon (glancing at the papers lying on the
table). This invention is just the thing, hon'. If
that company I saw the other day accepts it, we
won't be cold or hungry any more. (Amy comes
over to Leon and stands beside him, placing her
hands partly around his shoulders.)
Amy. Then we can honeymoon all the time,
can't we, sweetums?
Leon (shaking his head). Oh, but they'll re-
fuse me, because I'm colored.
Amy. Color doesn't matter with a big com-
pany like that.
Leon. All alike. You don't know, honey;
you're still young, innocent, inexperienced, un-
used and unaccustomed to the prejudices of the
white man's world. I have had bitter ones. Bit-
ter as gall ! Sometimes, honey, my hidden feel-
ings almost burst into angry flames. It was only
the other day I was the sole colored applicant
out of about fifty others for a mechanical posi-
tion. The boss recognized me an yelled, "You,"
pointing his finger at me, "I'm speaking to you.
You needn't stay. This is a white man's job."
Amy. You're too reserved, too sensitive, my
own big boy. Don't let them get away with that
nonsense ! They don't know you're colored over
at the place where you're trying to sell your in-
vention, do they?
Leon. No ; but they have an idea.
Amy. Don't tell 'em. You can pass. Pass
for a foreigner— a Cuban, a Mexican, a Spaniard
— anything except an American colored man.
Miss Esther will help you. Heard what she
Leon (his head resting between his hands).
That's yellow! To get away from my race.
After all it has undergone for me. And all I
owe it. And as much as it needs me. I must
rise or fall with my people. My conscience!
My pride ! Honey ! (Jumps to his feet.) Good
Amy. If this keeps up, sweetums, you won't
live to stay in your race. This is an age of in-
dividualism. Think of your little hone}'. Pass
and live ; or stay and starve.
Leon (in a ..mood of thinking seriously).
That's right. My marriage vows. I have never
made any vows publicly to my race. I'll think
it over. In the meantime I'd better get in the
streets again. (Puts on his hat and coat.) You
heard what Mumsy said. (Goes toward side
door at left, he looks affectionately at Amy, who
follows him.) And I remember my marriage
vows. I feel that Miss Gaines can place me at
Amy. You're forgetting something. (A pause.
He returns and kisses her passionately.) You
won't be away from your honey long, will you,
sweetums? (He shakes his head and goes out.
She stands in the door and looks longingly at
him. She sighs.)
Page Sixty -five
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
The place is Esther's employment office.
The time is about half an hour later.
There is a door at the rear and a door at the right side. There
is a window on one side of the room, overlooking the street. Cards
and posters advertising for house-maids, butlers, waiters and other
domestic help, and all kinds of labor, are hung on the walls of the
room. As the curtains rise Esther is seen seated at her desk. She
is looking over employment books. Juckes comes in, dressed as in
Scene I. All the while he is in the room, standing or walking about,
he keeps his hat on and his pipe in his mouth. He maintains an air
of crude superiority.
Juckes. Anything on your books this morn-
Esther. A good proposition to put to you.
Juckes. That's for me to say, whether it's
good or not. (Abruptly leaning over on desk and
looking Esther straight in the eye.) What about
all the work I've thrown your way? Not a cent
from it. (A cynical laugh.) I ain't in it for my
Esther (pushing Juckes back). We'll talk
about that later. (Juckes slowly gets back.) A
poor boy who has nothing to do has a marvel-
lous invention— a new idea in sewing shoes —
Juckes. Anything in THIS for me?
Esther. Yes, if we can place it in a plant
and give the poor fellow something to do to help
Juckes. That's right; we need workers.
That's what I come for. Got any on hand?
Esther. Most of the white non-union men
are afraid to work at the plant. I can get some
Juckes. White and colored won't mix well.
White men won't stand to work with colored,
Esther (sternly). Who runs your business,
employers or employees?
Juckes. In a way, the workers. If we hire
too many colored, the white quit. Then we
can't find enough colored to fill their places.
Esther. That's a preconceived notion.
Juckes. Can't depend enough on the colored,
anyway, to change. They get drunk and lay off.
They stay from work to go to a funeral or to en-
joy a day's drunk.
Esther. How do you know, Mr. Juckes?
You've never had any. t
Juckes. That's what everybody says.
Esther. Can't take everybody's word to de-
termine a person's qualifications. Certainly,
there's some bad colored, just as there's some
bad white. Some good, strong, brawny colored,
like the white. If they make profit for you and
me, what's the difference?
Juckes. They belong on the farms in the
South. Too many up here. Starve 'em out, and
they '11 have to go back. Just got enough jobs
for our own boys.
Esther. That's not patriotism— nor Chris-
Juckes. By gad, what do I care about either !
Us white folks come first. Anything left, the
niggers can have it. Time they getting some-
thing for themselves.
Esther (in a pleading tone). Until they're
able, they must be given work, like any other
Juckes. You make me think funny about
you, Miss Esther. You can't afford in this day
and time to be another Garrison. You might get
worse treatment. Country ain't going to fight
over the niggers again. Never turned you down,
but I'll have to, this time. As a real-to-goodness
white man, I can't stand to see no colored man
working beside a white woman. (Goes towards
Esther. No white women work in the ma-
Juckes (going out of door). Got to hurry.
Bet some of them scabs quit. Be back in a few
minutes to see what workers you have. Mean-
time I'll look into that invention. (Juckes goes
out. Esther continues looking over her books. A
few seconds later Leon comes in. He extends
his right hand to Esther. They shake hands.)
Leon. I am here, Miss Gaines.
Esther. And ready for work, Mr. Davis?
Leon. If I can get any. (Pulls out his inven-
tion papers.) All I've been able to do since I've
been married was to work on my invention—
and I was working on it long before I married.
Esther (looking over her books). The great
difficulty is finding a machinist's position.
Leon (in a harsh, disappointed tone). You
mean for colored ?
Esther (in a disconcerted manner). Er— er
—I have no objection. I like to help the colored
people. You must get that idea out of your
Leon. I can not, Miss Gaines, so long as I
am a colored man in America and denied the
chance to make a living because I am colored.
What about the job at the plant you promised
to get me, Miss Gaines ?
Esther. I've thought it over. You wouldn't
like the job. It's too dangerous, and the pay is
Leon. Anything, so long as it's work.
Esther. Be seated, Mr. Davis. (Leon sits
down.) I'll see whether I have anything you
can do. (Esther begins looking over her books.
Amy comes in, walking fast.)
Amy (getting chair and taking seat beside
Leon). Oh, sweetums, I'm so glad I caught you
Leon. Somebody wants me to work? Or
good news about the invention?
Amy. Neither. I don't want my sweetums to
work too hard.
Leon. Got to do something. You must eat
Esther (looking at Amy and speaking stern-
ly). Sorry, Mr. Davis, all I have to offer is hard
work. (Nora comes in. She is dressed as she
was when she went out in Scene I.)
Amy (standing, indignantly). My husband
doesn't have to take anything you have to of-
fer. He has an invention. (Leon leads Amy
Leon. Now, honey, you'd better keep quiet,
or I won't be able to get anything.
Amy. I'm your wife. I have a right to speak.
(Leon walks away disgustedly from Amy. She
Esther (astonished, to Nora). Why did you
come back, Mrs. Lewis?
Nora (standing up, leaning over desk and
shaking her forefinger in Esther's face). You
knowd where you's sending me !
Esther (leaning back in chair). Certainly, to
a family who wanted good, female help.
Nora (loudly). Yaller female help !
Esther. What do you mean?
Nora (standing back a step or two, hands on
hips and head thrown back). This white woman
you sent me to pretended not to know what I
come for. I told her you sent me. She said:
"There must be some mistake. I want a white
girl or a light-skinned colored girl." I didn't
spare my breath in speakin' my mind: "I'm not
to blame 'cause my daddy an' mammy wasn't
white," I says. "I cain't help from bein' black
no more'n you can from bein' white," I says.
"Black is as honest as white." That's what I
told her. (Sits down again.) I ain't particular
about workin' for poor white trash like her no
Esther (embarrassedly.) Oh, I'm so sorry!
Nora. All y' all white folks alike. Don't
give a person a good job 'cause she's black.
Esther. I'll see if I can send you somewhere
else, Mrs. Lewis.
Nora. Rather starve than go to a place like
that. (Points to Amy and Leon.) Them's two
yaller. See if you cain't git them something to
Esther (looking at her book, then speaking to
Leon). Mr. Davis, there's a butler's position on
Friend Street. (Amy whispers to Leon.)
Leon (apparently paying no attention to
Amy). Place for man and wife?
Esther. Don't think so. Just a travelling
salesman and his wife.
Amy. He can't take a job like that without
me. Can you, sweetums?
Leon. What's the matter with it? I must do
something. (Nora shows disgust by turning her
Amy (angrily). You married me to live with
me, not to live with someone else.
Esther. I have some calls for longshoremen.
Amy (standing over the desk near Esther).
Leon can't hurt his back lifting heavy things.
Rather work myself. You white folks just want
to kill all the good colored men. (Turns away.)
Won't do it to my man. (Leon makes one or
two steps towards desk as if to speak to Esther.
Amy slightly pushes him back with one hand.)
You stand back. I have something to say about
the work you're to do. (Leon stands aghast. He
gives a disgusted grunt, shrugs his shoulders,
and walks away a few paces. There is complete
silence for a few moments.)
Esther (still looking over her books). Here's
a call for a maid in a wealthy family. (Esther
glances at Nora.)
Nora. Don't look at me. Betcha they don't
Leon (with a side glance at Esther). Let
them do without them.
Nora. We's the one that's bad off.
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
Amy. Do they furnish room?
Esther. Yes; board, too. Don't have to
leave the place for anything.
Nora (to Amy). Better take that.
Esther. Fifteen dollars a week. Thursdays
Amy (walking farther away from desk to-
wards window). Oh, my hubby doesn't want me
to stay away from him so long. (Looking at
Leon.) Do you, sweetums? Nobody to cook his
meals and launder his clothes. (Amy begins
looking out of windew.)
Nora. Better get some meals to cook and
clothes to wash, first.
Esther (to Leon). They want men at Foss's
Leon. I don't mind trying something. The
way I feel, I am strong enough to do anything.
Nora. You look just like I feel— hungry.
Amy (to Esther). What is it like?
Esther (impatiently). Carry iron ; mostly
Amy (excitedly). He can't blister his hands!
It'll unfit him to handle his invention.
Nora. Sittin' 'round holdin' hands all day,
he'll blister somethin' else.
Leon (to Amy). If you'll only keep quiet,
honey. I'll have the work to do, and not you.
(Juckes comes in. He walks up unceremoni-
ously to the desk.)
Amy. And I'll be the widow, and not you.
Juckes (to Esther). Can you get your hands
on a good machinist right away, Miss Esther?
(Leon and Amy appear especially interested.)
The superintendent hired several this morning.
When they found a strike was on they got scared
Esther (appearing disconcerted). I think I
can find some one.
Nora. Got to go, Miss Esther. Cain't sit
around an' wait for work to come to me. Just
thought of somebody who hires black folks. See
what you can do for them chillun, so they can
have somewhere to stay tonight.
Esther. Very well, Mrs. Lewis. (Nora goes
Juckes. See what you can do, Miss Esther.
The work's all tied up waiting to get machinists.
Anybody will do, so long as he knows something
about his business.
Esther (leaning over on her desk and looking
Juckes directly in the eye.) What's the strike
about, anyway, Mr. Juckes? I've heard so
Juckes (glancing casually at Leon, who ap-
pears deeply interested in the conversation).
Something's new been installed. Takes the place
of two or three workmen. The company is will-
ing to keep all the men for six months longer,
but at lower wages. They won't stand to be cut.
All the unions supporting them.
Esther (hesitatingly, to Leon). Mr. Davis,
a good job for you.
Juckes (looking scornfully at Leon). No use
sending him. Can't use colored, I told you.
Esther (rather boldly). He's recommended
very highly. Finished from one of the best me-
chanical and technical schools.
Juckes. Makes no difference if he's the
best in the world, the boss won't use him if
he knows he's colored.
Leon (standing up and walking over nearer
Juckes). Know what I think about you,
Juckes (walking aivay from Leon con-
temptuously). My name is Mr. Juckes; and
what you think gets you nowhere.
Leon (following Juckes). Some day you'll
change your mind. A big boob like you don't
know the Civil War is over. The sooner the
country gets rid of the likes of you, the better.
Juckes (still walking away from Leon and
speaking angrily). The idea of a nigger talk-
ing to a white man like that! That kind of
stuff don't get you anywhere. Know what I'd
do to you if I had you down South? (Juckes
draws a finger across his own throat. Amy and
Esther appear frightened. Amy leaves the win-
dow and takes hold of Leon. Esther jumps be-
tween Leon and Juckes.)
Esther. You men are positively insulting!
(Leads Juckes to the door.) Mr. Juckes, I'll
see what I can do for you right away.
Juckes. Do the best you can. (Cutting his
eye hatefully at Leon.) But don't send that
half-white nigger. (Leon makes a quick move
towards Juckes, trying to break Amy's hold on
him. Juckes goes out hurriendly. There is
silence for a few seconds. Leon, with boived
head and clenched fists, walks over slowly and
sits down. Amy follows him.)
Esther (taking seat at her desk). Don't let
what he says worry you, Mr. Davis. Calm your-
self. I'll get you something to do. (Amy sits
near Leon. She takes a kerchief out of Leon's
coat pocket and wipes his forehead. After a
brief pause Leon gets up and goes over to
Esther's desk and casually sits down on side
of it and begins speaking to Esther.)
Leon. You must excuse me, Miss Gaines,
for losing my temper in your place of business.
He made me do it. Besides keeping me out of
work, insulting me. More than I could stand.
If I hadn't been in your place — well, I don't
know what I would have done.
Esther. Quiet your nerves, Mr. Davis, and
let's see about getting something to do. (After a
moment's reflection.) You do look like white,
Leon. I am often mistaken.
Amy. And he often passes without realizing
Esther (in a retaliatory tone). Pass now and
take this machinist's job. They'll never know
Leon. Old Juckes would have a fit. He'll
give me away. Like throwing oil on fire to
send me around there. The way I feel won't
do for us two to meet, Miss Gaines. Perhaps
I'd live longer by starving.
Esther. He's a foreman in the yard. He'll
never see you. Oh, but do you belong to the
Leon. In my application I stated I was
colored, and was refused. I shall always believe
old Juckes was to blame.
Esther. All the better, in this case, that you
are not a union man.
• Amy. Any danger in being a strike-breaker?
Can't let my hubb}' get hurt. Can I, sweetums?
Leon. Our present plight is graver than that.
Esther. They need men. They'll protect
Leon. My only objection, Miss Gaines, is
that it goes against the grain to betray myself.
But I must do something. (To Amy.) Our last
day with Mumsy, honey, if I don't get some
work. I'll take a chance. That's all life is,
Amy. But what about your invention?
Esther (entreatingly). But, madam, you
can't eat his invention, now.
Leon (pleadingly). It must wait for a while.
Amy (angrily). I hope I didn't marry an old
Leon. Be reasonable sometimes, honey !
Amy. Reasonable, nothing! Obey white
folks before you will me ! They don't mean
you any good. You can see she wants you
killed. (Goes hurriedly towards door.) I'll get
me a job and support myself. (She goes out
Esther (handing Leon a card). This is your
card of introduction to the superintendent of
the works. Pull your cap down over your eyes
so no one will recognize you. Go around the
side entrance so old Juckes won't see you.
Leon (putting his invention papers securely
in his coat pocket and pulling up top coat col-
lar). You're big-hearted, Miss Gaines. (He
pulls cap down over his eyes and goes out.)
The time is the late afternoon of the same day.
Scene is the same as Scene I
As the curtains rise Amy is seen lying on the cot. She is covered
with a blanket, and is asleep. Nora, who is dressed as in Scene II,
comes in from the street. She walks as if she is very tired. At first
Nora drops down in a chair near the table ; then she sits thinking
for a few moments. She shakes her head, sighs, glances at the pages
of the newspaper which is still lying on the table, then throws it
aside. She gets up and takes off her hat and coat. She goes over to
the shelf, pours from the pitcher a glass of water, ivhich she drinks.
She suddenly espies Amy lying on the cot and goes over to her.
Nora (shaking Amy). What you layin' here
Amy (arousing and yawning). Humph!
Nora. What you doin' sleepin', this time
Amy (stretching lazily). Nothin' else to do.
Nora. Thought you got a job from Miss
Amy (sitting on side of cot. She is wearing a
silk negligee). This little mamma isn't going
to kill herself working.
Nora. Jus' as well die workin' as die starvin'.
You can git somethin' for workin'.
Amy (walking lazily across the room to the
window). I'll do neither, so long as I got a
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
Nora (in astonishment). The nerve 1 Marry
a man to lay up on him !
Amy (looking out the window). What do you
think I married him for?
Nora. To starve you to death. But he won't
do it in this house.
Amy. Don't be silly, Mumsy. He's working,
Nora. Peddlin' that no-count invention?
Amy (taking a dress which is lying on a chair
near window and putting it on). At the shoe
factory. He has a swell job. Seventy-five per
—five and a half days a week.
Nora. That's a white man's job.
Amy. That's what they think he is.
Nora. Old Juckes knows him. The way he
hates colored folks, Leon won't last no time.
Amy. Juckes works in a different department.
(Amy begins looking out of window again. Her
interest in what is going on on the outside grows
deeper and deeper).
Nora. Nothin' too mean for old Juckes to do,
if he finds out. How did Leon git such a job?
Amy. He's a strike-breaker.
Nora (with a sigh of relief). Just in time to
break our hungry strike. What did they strike
this time for?
Amy. Their wages were cut on account of
some old invention.
Nora. Scarce as work is they's fools for quit-
tin'. What is they gittin' whilst they's quittin'?
They's gittin' hungry— an' somebody else in their
place. Hope Leon won't go an' turn fool. Let
me git a good job. No such luck for a poor
cullud person, 'cept he's a strike-breaker or is
yaller an' can pass. When white folks fall out
us cullud folks gits our just deserts. (She
pauses.) Why don't you be gittin' your hus-
band's supper? Mos' nigh time for him to come
Amy (looking more intently out of window).
Look at the men gathering over there !
Nora (glancing out the window). He can't
eat them men.
Amy. Nothing here to cook. (She runs into
Nora. What you do ? Eat it all up ? (Look-
ing around in different food utensils on the
shelf.) No meal t— No flour I— No meat!— No
grits I— No peas!— No Haters !— No coffee I—
(Stands in the center of the room and shows dis-
couragement.) No job I— NO NOTHING!
Amy (coming out of adjoining room, dressed
for the street). Mumsy, I'm going out to see
what's the disturbance's about. The strikers are
surging on the plant! Oh, lots of excitement!
Got to see about Leon. (Putting powder on
nose and face as fast as she can.)
Nora. Quittin' time. Bound to be trouble 1
The Governor had to call out the soldiers the last
time. Foreigners takin' our jobs. Don't blame
'em for strikin'. What good can you do? You
too giddy! (Amy runs out. Nora goes over to
the window and looks out. She puts on her coat
and hat. As she starts out of the side door, left,
she meets Amy and Esther coming in supporting
Leon, who appears badly injured. The noise of
the crowd may be heard a little distance from
the house. Amy and Esther are apparently
overburdened by the weight of Leon's body.)
Nora (excitedly). What's the matter? (Esther
waves her hand at Nora to keep quiet. They lay
Leon on the cot. He is heard to give frequent
distressing groans and murmurs. Amy gets a
cloth, dampens it with water which she pours
out of the pitcher, and wipes Leon's face, neck
Esther. Take off his shoes, Mrs. Lewis.
(Nora does so. A few seconds later Juckes comes
in brusquely. He looks almost fiendish in his
appearance. He approaches the cot hastily.).
Juckes (taking hold of Esther's arm, rough-
ly). What you butt in for?
Esther (jerking away instantly). What do
you mean? Have you lost your mind? (To
Nora.) Bring some water in a basin, Mrs. Lewis.
(Nora does so.)
Juckes (loudly). The idea of a white woman
— er— you almost got killed. You ought to stay
in your office and mind your own business. Told
you not to send him over there. Can't put
nothing over on me. I'm the best watchman
the company could have found to catch a skunk
like him, sneaking in.
Esther (still attending Leon and looking up
at Juckes). Think I'd stand and see him mur-
dered? I saw from my office window what was
being done to him. (Juckes stands closer to her
in a threatening manner.) You wouldn't strike
me. You're too big a coward.
Juckes (stepping back). The way you acting
you must be colored yourself.
Esther (angrily). What if I am?
Juckes (going towards side door, left). Well,
you won't have no employment office long. I'll
see to that ! What you take us white folks for ?
We run this town. Niggers don't.
Esther (starting at Juckes with a cutting
eye). Other ways of making a living.
Juckes (loudly). Look for it, then— and not
around here, either. (Juckes goes out. Esther
gives her complete attention to Leon.)
Nora (going up to Esther and looking her
surprisingly in the eye). Miss Esther, I didn't
know you's cullud!
Esther (still attending Leon). One-eighth —
Nora (interrupting). Don't blame you for
passin' if you can git more out o' it. Wish some-
times I could pass. (Looking at herself.) Guess
no chance, though.
Esther. Feel mighty guilty sometimes.
(Leaning closer to Leon, who is murmuring au-
dibly.) What did he say, Mrs. Davis?
Amy. Something about his invention. (Es-
ther leans closer to Leon as he mutters.)
Nora (getting closer to Leon). The poor boy
ain't fit to work for nobody for a long time.
Cain't throw him out, though. (Turns and
walks a jew steps away.) Don't know what we's
goin' to do now.
Esther. Don't worry, Mrs. Lewis. I'll lend
you money until you get work.
Nora (stepping up and throwing one arm
forcibly around Esther's neck. Esther has to bal-
ance herself.) Thanks, Miss Esther. You's a
angel ! What's he sayin' ?
Esther. His invention works. They stole
it and are using it at the shoe factory— workers
and strikers found out he's colored and tried to
kill him. Had to run and fight through for his
life. The company found out he's the inventor
of the shoe-machine, and the officers also tried
to get him out of the way. That's the trouble
with old Juckes. That's why he didn't want me
to have anything to do with Mr. Davis. Tried
to lay it to something else— He appears to be
Amy. Just because of an old job.
Nora. Just because he's cullud.
Amy. Darn the work!
Nora (in an ironical tone). What did he
marry you for?
Esther (leaving Leon and going toward side
door, left). He must have a doctor.
Nora (getting ready to go out). Better let
me git one, Miss Esther. What baout your
'ployment office? People want jobs.
Esther. I can get a doctor quicker. People
and jobs can wait. (Esther goes out.)
Amy. Hang the jobs ! Let her get the doctor.
We'll reimburse her out of the money we get
from suing that old company for stealing the
invention. Won't we, sweetums?
Nora (pushing Amy aside and taking her posi-
tion beside Leon). Give me that rag ! Y' ain't doin'
it right. (Amy gives her cloth and moves back.)
Here, wet the rag. (Amy does so.) This boy's
sho' hurt bad. (To Amy.) You have to work,
now. (Glancing up at newspaper lying on table.)
Heap o' calls in that paper for cooks, dishwash-
ers an' washwomen. (Amy throws up her head.)
Don't turn up your nose an' this boy nearly dead
tryin' to make a livin' for you. (As the curtains
fall Nora is leaning over Leon bathing his
wounds. Amy is helping by wetting the cloth.)
White foamy waves race
Up brown sandy beach
Incessantly . . .
Long fingers, pointing
Paths unknown to man,
Cradled in ebbing tide.
Dreams, idle dreams race
Up to higher things
Incessantly . . .
Sky fancies, pointing
Paths rarely viewed by man,
Cradled in slumbering soul.
Earl Lawson Sydnor.
Page Seventy -one
A Group of Poems
By ALICE E. FURLONG
When Love Is Laid Away
That sudden, short, sharp stab of bitter pain,
When love is laid away forevermore 1
Ah, who can say he'll never feel pain
When Love is laid away forevermore?
Whose love sleeps quietest through sun and rain,
Through whose sad door shall Love come nevermore-
Will he dare say he'll never feel again
When Love is laid away forevermore?
Riches and Poverty
Some have, but they may never hold, alas.
Which would you be?
Someone who a resounding title has,
Or would you rather go your way alone,
And, having nothing you may call your own,
Still all possess?
The Seas Warning
Dear, eager child, upon my shining shore,
With questing, outstretched hands,
Seek not the secret of the breaker's roar,
But stay you safe upon the sands.
Poor, eager heart, so willing all to give!
Soon shall you know
How short a time such ardent love can live
And all bestow.
A thrill, a softly spoken word, a kiss ;
A perfect, golden hour of Love's own's bliss ;
An anguished moan, a broken cry of pain;
And weary years of yearning — just for this!
I shall be gone, my Love, before you find me,
So long, so long the day till dreams come true;
But I shall leave a blazoned trail behind me,
Clearly defined, to point the way for you.
And when the earthly things that now enthrall you
Unbind their clinging tendrils, one by one,
Then from some far off, lonely peak I'll call you
So you may climb to rest — when strife is done.
By ALVIRA HAZZARD
ARRIE MORRIS had received two
telephone calls for Betts Carlen. "The
little fool," she grumbled as she
clamped down the receiver. "Tryin' to
be so dickty. Reformin' a gutter snipe
like Phil Howard, what ain't got the second
shirt to his back, and turnin' down a man's man
like Jake Smith. God!" She paused before
the mirror as she went back into the room. Her
grayish, bleached face was thickly coated with
cream, and its flat nose broadened as she grinned.
"Lord," she told her reflection, "if I had a
chance at Jake, what I could do with some of
his herbs is nobody's business! If he calls up
about her again, I'll try my tech on him."
Lighting a cigarette, she tumbled into bed again,
and lay on her back blowing heavy puffs of
smoke to the ceiling.
She had just begun to speculate on the luck
she would have that night, on the avenue at the
end of her narrow street, when the telephone
rang again. She started to answer, then changed
her mind. Phil wouldn't get any message from
his dickty girl by Carrie's answering the tele-
phone again. She had sent him down one blind
alley, but here he was again. She finished the
cigarette with several vigorous puffs, then
turned her face to the wall.
Betts Carlen sat by the window in the tiny
room on the fourth floor of Mercy Hospital. She
had been unpacking her worn straw suitcase, but
as the hands of the clock pointed to eleven forty-
five, she sat back in the chair and closed her
eyes. "Now," she thought, "he's putting the
nickel in the slot. Now Carrie is giving him my
message. He's sorry not to hear my voice, but
he's glad, too. She's told him, 'at the old place,'
but won't it be a long wait until seven-thirty!"
She was happy enough to cry. Phil would be
happy, too, knowing she had left Jake Smith's
restaurant. No more smutty remarks in her
ears; no more sensuous eyes on her rounded
body ; no more unwelcome attentions from Jake.
Betts travelled through the future weeks in
leaps and jumps. Maybe if she went to night
school and got a certificate she could be a real
nurse and not just a ward maid: a nurse in a
spotless white dress and cap, and she'd be called
Miss Carlen. The thought of it was overwhelm-
Rocking back and forth with her little hands
clasped tightly in her lap to keep them from
fluttering, Betts felt sure that no girl in the
whole of New York would be happier than she.
Twenty minutes, and three more nickels, but
no answering voice from the other end of the
wire. Phil snatched his battered straw hat and
stumbled out of the house.
"Perhaps it's all a dream," he muttered. "But
she promised to be in and lookin' for my call.
Maybe I don't know no Betts Carlen— ain't
even a colored name . . . Carlen. I wasn't
foolin,' though, Lord. Honest, I wasn't. I love
that kid more than my mammy. God, to see her
flash them eyes, and show them teeth, and flip
her hair out of her eyes with one little toss of
the head ! And I've only knowed her two weeks.
But look at the change in me."
With each ejaculation Phil quickened his pace.
He was trotting along, half praying, half
sobbing. The day was hot, and heavy drops
of sweat stood out on his face. But he didn't
mind them; he didn't mind the grins of the
people who were amused to see him hurrying
so absently down a busy street in the heat of a
summer day. Ordinarily his pleasant face was
a smooth, ruddy brown, but today it was grim
and ashy. He had a hunch — he was afraid.
The awful dread, that the wonderful new girl
friend might be lost to him before he had told
all his well-laid plans for her happiness, gave
him strength to run on and on. He might have
taken the subway, but involuntarily he went the
longest way, the way he and Betts had wandered
on the mild evenings after the show.
At last he turned into the narrow street. In
answer to his frantic ring, a head tied in a
turkish towel popped out of an upper window.
Before Phil could shout his question, a shrill
voice, not new to him, met his upturned ear.
"You no-count Phil Howard," it rasped. "You
got your nerve getting me out of bed. If you're
lookin' for Betts, you're out of luck."
"The devil ! " The words were out before
he could check them.
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
"The devil must be you, Phil," she screamed
at him. "But, anyway, I told Betts all about
you and she's through."
"Listen, you, Carrie," he shouted, approach-
ing her as closely as he could under the window.
"I'd give my right hand for that kid. I'm on
the square with her, so help me God. Carrie,
you— you ain't done this out of jealousy?"
"Huh! Jealous of who and what?" She
slammed the window down.
Phil's feet took him to his erstwhile favorite
haunt. He didn't want to go. He had boasted
the day before of his new girl, his new job, and
his new outlook. Some of the old gang had
heard him, and had laughed. He wore an evil
frown as he dug his hands into the pockets of
his coat, and loped into Jackson's Pool and
The place was vile with fetid smoke and the
odor of perspiration. Phil, sprawled in a chair
near the door, viewed with a disgusted smirk the
pals he had so lately shaken. A much-used
record was wobbling on an ancient phonograph
in the far corner of the room. From its scratched
surface, and through the huge wooden horn
came a suggestive blues, "My b-a-a-by don't
love nobody but me-e-e."
Bud Bemis, a gentleman in appearance, cool
and nonchalant in a crisp Palm Beach suit, stood
with Slim Lawlor, a squeaky-voiced "numbers"
man. Ever so often they punctuated their
animated conversation with bursts of convul-
Bending over the tables which stood down
the center of the room were a dozen men of as
many shades of complexion.
Phil had nothing to fear from this group. But
the keen eye of Half-Pint Williams took in his
plight at a glance. He swung out of his swivel
chair and pushed it under the desk. Half-Pint
was the manager. Palmer Jackson, the owner,
seldom graced the Pool and Billiard Palace with
his pompus presence, though everyone knew he
made a comfortable living out of its proceeds.
Half-Pint managed well. Dwarfed, black as
a hole, shrewd as a diplomat, he was king in
his swivel chair. His beady, blood-shot eyes
and his prominent red nostrils made him look
like some odd beast. Many a man had cause to
say that no panther was wilder, nor more cer-
tain to tear its victim to bits, than was Half-
Pint Williams when he was on a rampage. Yet
he was popular— because the burliest giant
Grinning and swinging his heavy, hairy hands
that reached nearly to his knees, Half-Pint
trotted to the phonograph and changed the
"My sweetie went away,
"And she didn't say where . . . ."
Still chuckling, the man edged up to Phil.
"Your case, eh, buddy," he jeered.
A new Phil, fired with rage and pent-up
emotion, struck the astonished Half- Pint an
echoing blow on the chin. The room was
electrified ; shades of a shooting, and the wagon !
But with the coolness and disdain of a victorious
gladiator, Phil shook off the dust of Jackson's
Palace before the shock had passed. There was
hope in the afternoon air.
"Gawd-a-mighty," spat one of the men, resum-
ing his game, "I didn't think he had the guts 1 "
/ See You
I see you
Standing in the garden
With a lily in your hand.
It is drooping
Like the half-moons
Of your eyes.
My love is a rose
I cast at your feet.
Lift it from the earth
That you may inhale
Us delicate fragrance.
It is the essence
Of my soul.
Edythe Mae Gordon.
Burial of the Young Love
You who love her.
Place your flowers
And go your way.
Only I shall stay.
After you have gone
With grief in your hearts,
I will remove the flowers
You laid above her.
Yes, I who love her.
Do not weep,
Friends and lovers.
(Oh, the scent of flowers in the air !
Oh, the beauty of her body there! )
Gently now lay your flowers down.
When the last mourner has gone
And I have torn
When the last mourner has gone
And I have tossed !$Z.yL
Broken stems and flower heads
To the winds . . . ah! . . .
I will gather withered leaves . . .
I will scatter withered leaves there.
Friends and lovers,
Do not weep.
Gently lay your flowers down . . .
Gently, now, lay your flowers down.
/ Am Not Proud
I am not proud that I am bold
Or proud that I am black.
Color was given me as a gage
And boldness came with that.
Dust to Dust
When your dust calls to my dust
From 'cross the vaulted years,
Will souls be steeped in sorrow
Or will love master fears ?
When your dust sings to my dust
With each companion cell,
What matter tint or color
As side by side we dwell?
When your dust blends with my dust,
As, crumbling, falls each tomb,
Shall your soul mete to my soul
A segregated doom?
You lift your head in glory
And pass me by with scorn;
Yet who shall ken your story
In some far-futured morn?
What vain, deceiving science
Shall boastful forms adjust?
What art shall trace a diff'rence
Where earth clings, — dust to dust ?
Joshua H. Jones, Jr.
Remember not the promises we made
In this same garden many moons ago.
You must forget them. I would have it so.
Old vows are like old flowers as they fade
And vaguely vanish in a feeble death.
There is no reason why your hands should clutch
At pretty yesterdays. There is not much
Of beauty in me now. And though my breath
Is quick, my body sentient, my heart
Attuned to romance as before, you must
Not, through mistaken chivalry, pretend
To love me still. There is no mortal art
Can overcome Time's deep, corroding rust.
Let Love's beginning expiate Love's end.
Let my hair hang
Upon my shoulders.
Weave a wreath of jasmine
Into its strands.
Kiss each blossom, and promise
You'll love me always.
Then I'll bind my hair
Tight about my head
To hold your love secure.
Edythe Mae Gordon.
Is the Negro Happy?
By ROSCOE WRIGHT
HE author of a recent widely-read book
of African travel makes the following
inference concerning a certain tribe in
"They sing: therefore, they must be
Turning from Africa to America, we find that
happiness, in these United States, is likewise
regarded as a cardinal virtue of the black man's
Inasmuch as the Negro is a confirmed meli-
orist, he is considered to be a happy creature:
the Negro continually looks forward to a better
day. This spirit of optimism has kept the Afra-
merican afloat while he has drifted, lashed by
the waves of race-hatred and contempt, borne
on by time and circumstance to his sought-for
goal. Dr. W. E. B. DuBois, the protagonist of
Negro intellectuals, has wisely reminded his race
Nothing is more dangerous than unintelli-
gent optimism, childish faith in the triumph of
good, the "God's-in-His-heaven" attitude as-
sumed because one is too lazy to be worried.
There is, among Negroes, far more "unintelligent
optimism" than there is of the intelligent brand.
Intelligent Negroes are more pessimistic than
their duller brethren; they are the less happy,
and they feel the prick of prejudice more.
The average Negro pretends to be happy when
he isn't. He does this because he is born con-
formist. The white man wishes the Negro to be
happy, and, presto! the Negro becomes happy.
The conscience of the white man is somewhat
salved by the smile on the black man's face or
the laugh from the black man's lips. In the
South Negroes who display a stolid, matter-of-
act attitude are regarded as "impudent niggers."
idividual Southerners have been heard to say,
«. don't want no surly niggers around me, Sah ! "
\ey don't. Even the Northerner prefers his
groes smiling. The Negro knows of this at-
ude. He tries, by acting pleasant, to make
self generally agreeable,
vin Cobb has noted that "The Negro is the
sensitive and secretive of all human beings."
tie Gordon, in a recent magazine article,
hat "he [the Negro] has become sensitive,
've, and hypocritical." E. B. Reuter cor-
tes these assertions by stating, in his book,
"The American Race Problem," that "Extreme
sensitiveness is everywhere characteristic of the
[Negro] race in America. You ask, "What has
this to do with happiness?" One answer is that
the black man, being indubitably secretive, at-
tempts to mask his true emotions from the white
man. This applies to happiness as well as to
other emotional qualities.
In the army I had a blues-singing black buddy
who hummed, "I got the blues an' I'm too damn'
mean to cry." He meant it. There are numer-
ous Negroes (most Negroes, in fact) who, al-
though disgusted with the vicissitudes of life, are
too mean, i. e., too stubborn, too proud, to let
the white man know that they are other than
On inquiring of the average Negro's health,
such an answer as "I feel fine" (or "right smart"),
thank you," will be elicited. Sometimes you
may get "fair" ("tolahble," "fair to middlin," or
"middlin, considerin"), for an answer. Such
a reply as "bad" (or "poh'ly") is seldom given:
when a Negro says "poh'ly" he is about ready
for extreme unction. Not often will a Negro say
to a white man, who is not a physician, that he
feels "rotten," "punk," or "damned wretched,"
as the case may be : if he did, he might be con-
The Negro is being denied so many rights and
privileges that he fails to realize that it is Ms
privilege to pursue unhappiness, should he choose
to chase it instead of happiness. His idea is to
"grin and bear it." This, in itself, accounts for
the fact that the average black man, whenever
addressed by a white man, habitually grins.
This grin has been mistaken for a sign of good
nature; but, rather, it is a sign of truce— of
respect for superior odds. The black man grins
for the same reason that the Great Dane wags
Persons who think that modern Negroes are
as happy as their predecessors of the early nine-
teenth century are liable, in time, to find them-
selves in error. In days of slavery the Negro
was, to a great extent, more light-hearted than
he is today. He hadn't then so much sense
as now, and his life wasn't so complex. E. H.
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
Randle, a Southerner, writing of southern Negro
As a race the Negroes were more contented,
happier, made more progress in morality and
practical knowledge, were better fed, better de-
veloped, physically and mentally, were more
elevated in spirit, had fewer troubles and more
pleasures, in slavery, than in freedom; . . .
Although much of the foregoing is buncombe,
the blacks were, nevertheless, seemingly happy.
Ante-bellum observations, or descriptions of
slaves and slavery, always contained allusions as
to how happy the slaves were. Reviewing the
songs of Stephen Foster and kindred sentimen-
talists, we find such phrases as, " 'tis summer and
the darkies are gay."
"Dixie," the Southerner's dithyramb of praise,
implies that Negroes were quite happy in the
land of cotton.
It is rather ironical that such happy persons
could have handed on to us such sorrowful melo-
dies as some of the Negro spirituals are. Think
"Nobody knows de trubble I'se seen" ;
"Po' mournah, you shall be free,
When de good old great day come" ;
"Befo' I'd be a slave,
I'd be buried in ma grave,
An' go home to be happy an' be free" ;
or, lastly, this,
"Bye and bye, bye and bye
I'm gonna rest this weary load" —
and draw your own conclusions.
No fair-minded Negro will hesitate to admit
that the Emancipation brought increased re-
sponsibilities. The Negro, freed, was thrown on
his own; his life grew more complicated; his
contacts more varied: hence, happiness was less-
ened and discontent increased. The freedman
expected bread and got a stone; he expected
heaven and got hell. Race friction increased.
E. B. Reuter says of the blacks, during this and
As Negroes outgrew the grosser forms of
their slave psychology, they developed an op-
pression psychosis and chafed against the
racial status as defined in custom. As wealth
and literacy increased they grew more and more
They became increasingly resentful of abuse,
more unwilling to submit to discrimination,
more disposed to protest against mistreatment,
and to insist upon their legal rights.
All the while white folk, however, went on
thinking that black folk were happy. Countless
"coon" songs in vogue near the close of the
nineteenth century all held the nigger up as being
indeed a most idiotically carefree person.
In any age popular songs are indicative of the
popular fancy. They are the vox populi in
lighter vein. Thus, in the twentieth century,
there came a vogue of "mammy songs." Here are
two samples taken ad lib from them,
"Banjos humming, darkies strumming'
'Banjos ringing, darkies singing."
Such gleeful gush from Tin-Pan Alley connoted
much cheer on the part of the darkies.
This concept of a Southland dense with de-
lighted darkies still seems to prevail, in spite of
its absurdity. White persons— of Northern
cities, too,— think of the Negro residential sec-
tions as places where joy reigns supreme and
unalloyed. Carl Van Vechten titled his novel of
Harlem life "Nigger Heaven." He thus shrewdly
implied that this community was a heaven, "a
place of supreme happiness and great comfort."
Such an implication is largely a matter of super-
ficial observation. Many other writers, among
them Roark Bradford, Octavus Roy Cohen, and
Hugh Wiley (all of whom should know better),
insinuate through their stories that the Negro
is a clown and a buffoon, and is as happy as a
fool. However, a few writers like DuBose Hey-
wood, E. C. L. Adams, T. S. Stribling, Paul
Green, and Julia Peterkin have had vision enough
to realize that there is much tragedy as well as
comedy in Negro life.
There are, of course, some happy Negroes ex-
tant. There are many Negroes whose lives are
replete with bliss and sunshine (sometimes moon-
shine). Among the lower-class, less intellectual
Negroes, there are thousands of that kind. As
we ascend the Negro social scale, the number of
happy Negroes rapidly approaches zero. Among
the exceptional cases, we find Zora Neale Hurs-
ton, a Negro woman writer of distinction. Not
so long ago she proclaimed in the World To-
. . . But I am not tragically colored. There
is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor
lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all.
I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negro-
hood who holds that nature somehow has given
them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings
are all hurt about it.
Miss Hurston's attitude is indeed admirable,
but the average intelligent Negro finds difficulty
IS THE NEGRO HAPPY?
in assuming it. Although the educated colored
man has outgrown the idea that "nature has
given him a lowdown dirty deal," he seems un-
able to outgrow the idea that, on the whole,
human nature — white human nature— has given
him such a deal.
Happiness is, of itself, abstract. Moreover, it
is a variable state of being. Therefore we find
some Negroes happy and others equally unhappy
under identical circumstances. A Harlem intel-
lectual would chafe under the treatment ac-
corded, say, a Mississippi levee roustabout: the
former would be most unhappy, while the latter
would probably remain unruffled.
The great mass of American Negroes are sub-
cutaneously unhappy. They are discontented
and dissatisfied with things as they are. This
feeling is so recondite as to be almost entirely
unobserved by those who pay but casual atten-
tion to the black man and his various moods.
Frank L. Schoell, writing on "La Question Des
Noirs Aux Etats-Unis," says:
Que le negre ne soit pas encore satisfait
quand on lui fait une premiere concession, il
n'ya la rien pour surprendre. D'autre part, les
noirs sont au fond si compietement americanises,
l'ideal qu'ils appellant de leurs voeux est si
identiquement celui de Lincoln et de la constitu-
tion americaine, que le jour ou ils auront obtenu
le mesure de justice sociale a laquelle a droit le
proletariat blane, lere de revindications de race
noire en tant que noire sera logiquement close.
If we but scan the fields of Negro life and
letters, it is obvious that the Negro is not yet
satisfied. Propaganda is an outstanding char-
acteristic of Negro literary expression. The
writings of the modern Negro are saturated with
protest and a general tone of unhappiness. Let
me offer the following lachrymose effusions of
some representative Negro poets.
By AQUAH LALULAH
Why do the bards of black folk
Sing grief brushed over with gladness?
Because God sculptured the soul of the race
In a moment of wistful sadness."
By GRACE P. WHITE
But yes, you say, Sambo does laugh,
About his work every morning,
Liza still sings o'er the kitchen stove,
Baking the rolls, in the morning.
But Sambo's shout and Liza's song
Are different now, my brother.
He shouts to hide the hurt in his heart
She sings, a pain to smother.
These just-quoted stanzas were taken at random
from the Crisis. They speak for themselves and
need no comment from me.
Negro novelists, like the poets, seek an outlet
through the type of writing that has come to be
known as "the literature of escape." Some, as
Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois has done in The Dark Prin-
cess, seek to escape from sorrow and reality via
romanticism. Other Negro authors, far more
modernistic in temperament and technique, seek
an escape from sorrow and reality through the
"new realism." An example of this sort is found
in the sordid realism of Claude McKay's "Home
to Harlem." Burton Rascoe, reviewing this novel
in the Bookman, says that "Out of his individual
pain, Claude McKay has fashioned his lyrics;
and out of his impersonal sorrow he has written
a fine novel."
The Negro press may be rightly taken as a
mirror of Negro life— at least, it should be. Ac-
cording to E. Franklin Frazier, in Current His-
tory, "The potential influence of the Negro news-
paper is indicated by the fact that the aggregate
circulation of three leading Negro weeklies, the
Chicago Defender, the ^Pittsburgh Courier and
the Baltimore Afro-American, is about a half
Such enormous circulation signifies that the
Negro press must be held in high esteem by its
It is a curious fact that the press of a sup-
posedly happy people should assume an attitude
of cynicism and pessimism. But the following
statement by Weatherford in "The Negro from
Africa to America" may well serve as a straw to
point the wind's true directions. He says that,
"Having scanned a great many Negro papers, I
have come to the conclusion that there is much
more bitterness over injustice and lynching than
most white people know."
Magazines of many kinds have been published
by Negroes. Most of these periodicals have been
very short-lived. However, several are still in
existence, among them The Crisis, and Oppor-
tunity. Both are well-edited, meaty magazines,
judged by any standard. But neither is other
than serious in subject matter. No Negro has,
as yet, seen fit to establish a magazine of humor
such as Life or Judge. If there were so much
light-heartedness among American black folk, is
THE SATURDAY EVENING QUILL
it not reasonable to think that some of it would
find its way into their magazines? The colored
editor of a recently established illustrated feature
and magazine section (syndicated among twenty
Negro weekly newspapers), read manuscripts
for four months. He then wrote to prospective
contributors : "Out of the scores of stories so far
submitted to us, not a half-dozen have been
humorous! Have our race writers no sense of
There are far more external signs of happiness
in Negro life than there are in Negro letters. On
close analysis it is revealed that much of this ap-
parent happiness is make-believe. Negroes have
more fraternal organizations, in proportion to
their numbers, than any other people. The serio-
comic ceremonies of the "Sons and Daughters of
I Will Arise," and the more austere rites of black
Freemasons, are alike in one respect— they are
the Negro's means of seeking escape from the
actualities of a life that is not to his liking.
It was Boris Sidis, I believe, who said that
"religion is an outgrowth of the play instinct."
The Negro is profoundly religious. His extreme
zeal for the worship of God is well known. But
the common aim of all his religious denomina-
tions, be it in the decorous St. Philip's Episcopal
Church of Harlem, or the hilarious "Holy Roll-
ers" of Charleston, South Carolina, is to get away
from the fact that he is the underdog. Here
again is an attempt to escape!
Underlying Negro group and family life, there
is a sub-stratum of racial discontent and unhap-
piness. Someone has observed that "any time
two or more Negroes meet and converse, their
conversation, as a rule, finally degenerates into a
discussion of how badly they are being treated."
Negro social life is replete with activity. There
are always innumerable proms, parties, and
picnics being given. These diversions are often
entered into with an utter lack of restraint. In
their social functions they are temporarily the
w.k. "happy niggers." In gay Harlem gatherings
—such as would make the fingers of Van Vechten
or Covarrubias itch for a pencil— the gin is re-
sponsible for much of the geniality, and the high-
ball for much of the happiness; when the song
is ended and the liquor ceases to percolate
through their beings, these Negroes become once
more the restless, disillusioned creatures that
they ordinarily are.
Is the Negro happy?
The question persists. Before the average
white 100 per-center made answer to this query,
he would probably think, first, of twelve million
dissatisfied and discontented "darkies," then he
would think of his airplanes, his riot guns, his
tear-gas bombs; and then, finally, he would
probably reflect : "Well, suppose the Negro is not
happy,— what of it?"
The Saturday Evening Quill Club
ORGANIZED JULY, 1925
Half M. Coleman was born in Newark, N. J., and was
educated in the New Jersey public schools. For the last
twelve years he has lived in Boston, where he has written
and directed amateur plays. He is director of the Boston
Waring Cuney, born in Washington, D. C, is studying
voice in Boston. His poems, especially "No Images" and
"Murder Blues," have been extensively quoted, the latter
appearing also in Braithwaite's 1928 Anthology.
Alice C. Furlong comes from Albany, N. Y. She was
educated in the Cambridge public schools. At the moment
she is living in New York City.
Eugene Gordon, contributor to various periodicals, is on
the editorial staff of the Boston Post. He is president of
the Saturday Evening Quill Club and editor of this an-
nual. He was born in Florida.
Edythe Mae Gordon, educated in Washington, D. C,
where she was born, and in special courses at Boston and
Harvard Universities, publishes verse for the first time
this year. Her short story, "Subversion," in the first num-
ber of The Saturday Evening Quill, was listed in the
"0. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1928," as one
of the distinguished "short short stories" of that year.
She has contributed short stories to the Illustrated
Feature Section of the Negro press.
A. Aloysius Greene, to whose memory this number of
The Saturday Evening Quill is dedicated, was born in
Atlanta, Ga., and at the time of his death had lived in
Boston six years. He was educated in the schools of
Florence Marion Harmon studied at Gordon College of
Theology and Missions, in Boston. She was born in Lynn,
Mass. Miss Harmon is treasurer of the Saturday Evening
Alvira Hazzard has been prolific as a writer of one-act
plays, many of which have been acted by amateurs. Miss
Hazzard was born at North Brookfield, Mass. She teaches
in the Boston public schools.
Helene Johnson, one of the most widely quoted of the
younger poets, was born in Boston but now lives in New
York. She has contributed to Palms, Opportunity: A
Journal of Negro Life, and Vanity Fair.
Joshua H. Jones, Jr., is a native of Orangeburg, S. C.
He has served as sports and political editor of the Provi-
dence News, sports editor of the Worcester Post, manag-
ing editor of the Lawrence Sun and American, assistant
city editor and city editor of the Boston Advertiser, re-
write and copy-desk editor of the Boston Post, copy editor
of the Boston Journal, and city editor of the Boston
Telegram. He was secretary to Mayor James M. Curley
of Boston for four years, during which time he was made
editor of the City Record, a job he still holds. He is
author of "The Heart of the World and Other Poems,"
"Poems of the Four Seas," and of one novel, "By Sanction
of Law." Mr. Jones is a graduate of Brown University.
Lois M. Jones is head of the art department, Palmer
Memorial Institute, Sedalia, N. C. She was born in Bos-
George Reginald Margetson, author of "The Fledgling
Bard and the Poetry Society" and "Songs of Life," was
born at St. Kitts, B. W. I., and educated at Bethel Mora-
vian School. He came to the United States in 1907. His
work is represented in Braithwaite's "Poetic Year for
1916 — A Critical Anthology," White and Jackson's "Book
of American Negro Poetry, An Anthology," Kerlin's
"Negro Poets and Their Poems," and Johnson's "The
Book of American Negro Poetry."
Gertrude Parthenia McBrown is well known as a writer
of children's verse, much of which she has recited in pub-
lic. She is a graduate of Emerson College of Oratory,
Boston, and of Boston University (holding the degree of
Master of Education from the latter), and is at present
head of the Department of Fine Arts, Palmer Memorial
Institute, Sedalia, N. C. Miss McBrown was born in
Charleston, S. C.
Joseph S. Mitchell, a graduate of Talladega College,
Alabama, and of the Boston University Law School, is a
practicing attorney in Boston. He has written several
plays which have been popular with amateur performers.
Grace Vera Postles, native of Chester, Pa., is a graduate
of Cheney Normal School. She is now completing her
senior year at Emerson College of Oratory. Before going
to Emerson Miss Postles taught in the East Elkton School,
Elkton, Va. She is secretary of the Saturday Evening
Florida Ruffin Ridley is a native of Boston, where she
was educated and where she taught for some time in the
graded schools. From 1894 to 1910 she was assistant
editor of the Woman's Era, published in Boston. Mrs.
Ridley has contributed to various publications.
Gertrude Schalk is editor of Sunburst, a literary maga-
zine recently established in Boston. She is a frequent con-
tributor to the Illustrated Feature Section of the Negro
press, and her brief short stories have been widely dis-
tributed, by the Wheeler Syndicate, Inc., among scores of
daily and weekly newspapers of the country. Miss
Schalk is studying journalism at Boston University.
Earl Lawson Sydnor comes from Wayne, Pa., but at-
tended the public schools of Orange, N. J. He is now
preparing to enter college in Boston. He is a member of
the Boston Players. Mr. Sydnor's poems have appeared
in the Newark Herald.
Dorothy West, now living in New York, was born in
Boston. Her short stories have been for several successive
years listed in the "Honor Roll" of Edward J. O'Brien's
"Best Short Stories" series.
Roscoe Wright was educated at Howard and Northeast-
ern Universities. His two cover designs submitted in the
1927 Crisis Krigwa Contest won second prize and honor-
able mention, respectively. He comes from Lexington, Ky.
He has a large following among readers of the Illustrated
Feature Section of The Negro Press, to which publication
he frequently contributes short stories.